“What makes America Great” is the theme of patriotic competitions sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The purpose is to allow students to express their views, and more than 120,000 students participated in 2018.

Patriot’s Pen is open to students in sixth through eighth grades and the deadline to enter is Oct. 31. Entries should be sent to a local VFW post.

The grand prize of the essay writing competition is $5,000. National winners will receive at least $500, and the grand prize winner gets an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the winner and a parent or guardian.

Essay lengths are 300 to 400 words and all essays must be in English. Entrants will be judged on how well they understand, develop and present the theme. A positive approach is recommended.

The Voice of Democracy entry deadline is also Oct. 31, and the grand prize winner will receive $30,000.

The contest is open to students in ninth through 12th grades.

Students are to record an original three- to five-minute essay on an audio CD or flash drive on what makes America great. Submit the recording, the typed essay and entry form. No music, singing, poetry or sound effects are allowed.

Top classroom elementary, junior high and high school teachers who teach citizenship, promote civic responsibility, flag etiquette and patriotism are good candidates for an award — the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award.

The purpose of the award is for students to identify the best educators who help them gain a sense of pride in America.

The nomination forms should have less than 350 words and must describe why the teacher should be selected. Describe the teacher’s innovative way of teaching and utilizing resources, as well as his or her dedication to education.

The national awards include a $1,000 award for each of the winners of the categories to be used for professional development expenses. A $1,000 award goes to each winning teacher’s school, as well as plaques for the teachers and schools. The winners get an all-expense paid trip to attend the VFW National Convention. The top 10 high school teachers are invited to attend a summer Graduate Seminar at Freedoms Foundation in Pennsylvania.

Contact your local VFW post for an entry form and more rules, and submit your entries to your local VFW post by Oct. 31.

For more information, visit www.vfw.org.