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Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Hannah Oommen, a ninth-grade student at Houghton High School, has qualified for the state Voice of Democracy competition, which will hold its awards banquet in Kalamazoo this weekend.

HOUGHTON — Hannah Oommen’s thoughts on America’s future landed her a trip downstate this weekend.

Oommen, a ninth grader from Houghton High School, will be going to Kalamazoo for the state Voice of Democracy competition. The annual Audio Writing Contest is sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars.

High school candidates record a three to five minute essay on the theme of the year. This year’s topic was “America: where are we going? »

“You’re graded on how imaginative he is, how well you tie everything together, and then how well you talk – if it’s clear, if it’s enjoyable”, she said.

The subject shares its name with Martin Luther King’s last book, written a year before his death. Oomen used the subtitle — “Chaos or community? » — to explore two potential options for America.

On the one hand, the country: deep political divisions, pandemic, economic crisis and racial prejudice. Yet she saw positives: advances in technology, advances in treating and destigmatizing psychological issues, and the soldiers, teachers, medical providers and others working to protect and improve their country.

“Every generation can make a choice” she wrote. “May our generation choose empathy, compassion, and equality, to fuel the change that will lead to community, not more chaos!”

The students worked on the project in class; submitting it to the contest was extra credit, Oommen said. His essay has evolved both in form and substance over several drafts.

“It took a few weeks to wake up at 6 a.m. and come up with a random idea and write it down,” she said.

To prepare for the recording, she read the essay aloud several times to her friends and family. After 10 tries, she got the take that she submitted for the state.

Oommen hopes to win. But she also hopes to make new friends, like she did when she went to say it for Patriot’s Pen, the VFW high school competition.

The winner of the national competition gets a $30,000 scholarship for their university, college or vocational/technical school.

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