Mannheim High School senior Tina Weekley finished 10th out of about 80,000 high school students in an essay contest sponsored by the VFW.

Mannheim High School senior Tina Weekley finished 10th out of about 80,000 high school students in an essay contest sponsored by the VFW. (Stars and Stripes)

A senior at Mannheim High School in Germany won $3,350 in scholarship and prize money and the opportunity to meet President Bush as the result of an audio essay produced for a national competition.

Tina N. Weekley’s essay for the 2004-05 Veterans of Foreign War’s Voice of Democracy contest won the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe competition and qualified her for the national contest held this month in Washington.

“The money is great and the scholarship is great, but the real highlight was meeting the president,” Tina said in a telephone interview from her high school Tuesday.

“Even if I hadn’t won the money or scholarship, it would have all been worth it just to meet the president.”

Tina first won on the local, then district and then Europe-wide levels. She recorded an essay that competed with 54 others on the national level for a $25,000 scholarship. She ended up winning the $2,500 Troy and Sandy Rothbart Memorial Scholarship Award.

She said she was initially awestruck by the president, but managed to shake it off during a question-and-answer session. She said the president shook hands with each student and then spoke to them on topics such as the Middle East, nation-building and the White House administration.

Tina was ranked 10th in the national competition. About 80,000 students across the United States and overseas took part in the annual contest.

She plans to use her scholarship to further her education in politics, and plans to attend West Virginia University.

“I’ve been thinking about what I want to do a lot lately. My future is coming upon me,” she said.

Initially, she said, she wanted to attend a military academy, but, since breaking a leg, has changed her mind. Now she is looking at political careers that would lead her to become a senator for her home state of West Virginia or a career in journalism.

Her decision not to enter the military is unfortunate, according to retired Lt. Col. Robert Molinaro, the senior Army instructor for the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps in Mannheim, since she is doing so well in the program.

Molinaro wrote of Tina, the JROTC executive officer: “Her rapid rise above her peers resulted from her scholarship, positive spirit, organizational skills, and ‘can-do’ attitude.” In his e-mail, he also said she has won awards for academics, physical fitness, community service, leadership and marksmanship.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now