The National Youth Development, Scholarship & Recognition program has a long and vibrant history. Starting in 1916 with the first national essay contest, the VFW has worked to foster patriotism and character development among the nation's youth through essay competition, scholarships, sponsorship of youth sports activities and public recognition through this program. The Voice of Democracy essay competition is the VFW's premier essay contest. This contest awards 58 scholarships of $1,000 to $25,000 to 54 students from around the world. These students represent the best from each state and overseas. In addition to the scholarships listed above, the recognition portion of the program includes awards to the top Eagle Scout and a youth hero award. The program also promotes community service through youth involvement in sports and safety programs.