By ALI AHMED ‘22, SHRUTI GARG ‘20
What Makes America Great? According to Aishwarya Devarajan ‘20, Edison High’s January senior of the month, it is the people. She answers this question in her powerful essay that wins her regional honor this December in the Voices for Democracy contest for the second year in a row.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars’ (VFW) Voices for Democracy contest is an annual scholarship competition in which students write and record an audio version of their essays on the year’s chosen patriotic theme. Students then submit their essays to local divisions, where judges evaluate and grant scholarships of up to $30,000 at the national competition.
To tackle the anti-immigrant rhetoric within America, Devarajan ironically titled her entry “What Makes America Great Again?” and wrote about the immigrant experience of hardship and sacrifice. “Except for the Native Americans, everyone [in the US] is an immigrant or a product of immigrants,” she explains. “One of the most unique features of America is the idea of inclusion, diversity and the American Dream which brought us all here. When I think of America, I always think of the work ethic of people working three jobs to provide a future.” In a time of political and social polarization, Deverajan inspires Edison High students and the larger community to unite in the face of the issues at home and abroad.
Deverajan cherishes her own family as well as the diversity in Edison, as they have inspired her essay. She also thanks Mr. Michael Glackin for introducing her to the essay contest and proofreading her essay and Mr. Durkin of VFW post 3117 for his unending support and encouragement. She feels honored to have represented her post while contributing to an organization honoring the country’s veterans.
As Deverajan moves on from her senior year to college, she desires “to go pursue political science… public policy… and maybe environmental law,” seeking to advance her cause for national unity. From her VFW experience, she wants to continue “acknowledging people’s efforts” and “understanding the community and country” she advocates for, which she believes is “a very big part” of her future ambitions and interests.
Despite the fact that she will no longer attend Edison High, her determination and spirit will continue to inspire students in EHS to unite and work towards a common goal. As EHS’ students continue to advance forward, Deverajan will stand as an example of the American resolve and the desire to unite in the face of division.