Elaine Prevenas is planning to leave for Washington, D.C., Thursday morning to be among 54 students participating in the national Veterans of Foreign Wars Voice of Democracy speech contest.

Elaine will be a shining star for Brookings in Washington, D.C. said Charles Fuller of Brookings, who is national chairman of VFW and plans to be in Washington for the event. Prevenas will be representing the state of Oregon at the national contest.

She was one of five Brookings-Harbor High School students who were honored with a banquet by VFW Post 966 Sunday evening. The students Prevenas, Mia Zepeda, Jolene Brackett, Hank Hermanson and T.J. Axel were post-level winners of either the speech contest or the patriotic poster contest.

In order for Prevenas to be in the national competition, she first had to win at the post level speech contest. She was among 57 entrants from Brookings-Harbor High School. Because each school is entitled to one first place winner for each 50 entrants, the Brookings school was able to name two first place winners. The other post-level winner was Zepeda.

The two winners then competed at the district level, which is comprised of posts in Curry and Coos counties. There Prevenas won first place and Zepeda won third place. The topic of the speech was What Price Freedom.

First place winners from each of the 16 districts in Oregon went on to compete at the state level and once again Prevenas speech won first place, giving her the privilege of participating this weekend in Washington, D.C.

Top prize at the national level is $25,000 for first place, $20,000 for second and so on until 36th place. The bottom 18 contestants receive $1,000, Fuller said.

Upon hearing that everyone competing at the national level is guaranteed at least $1,000, Prevenas gave a thumbs-up of approval.

Receiving awards for the patriotic poster contest were Brackett, who was awarded $100 for her drawing; Hermanson received $75; and Axel won $50.

All artwork submitted for the VFW Post 966 contest is scheduled to be on display at the Chetco Community Public Library gallery in May.

Fuller said that while he was in law enforcement in New Jersey, he often saw the bad side of society. However, when I see these young people I know that this country is in good shape.

Not only were the students honored during the banquet, which was given at no charge to the students and their families, but the teachers who mentored these students were honored too.

Honored were Chuck Fenner, Brookings-Harbor High School art instructor, who has been providing winning student entries for several years, and Ted Burdett, American politics instructor, who encourages students to participate in the speech contest.

When Burdett went up to receive his award, he asked the students to come up, too, because he said he felt they deserved the respect.

Audrey Golden, patriotic art contest chairwoman, agreed with Burdett. If you honor the students, the students will honor you in return.