For Abington Heights High School senior Maria Sunick, there’s a vast difference between reality and the perception of reality., especially regarding her generation.

Sunick was recently named the winner for the 10th district in the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ annual national Voice of Democracy essay contest for her essay on why she is optimistic about our nation’s future. Sunick was also the winner for Abington Heights High School as well as post winner for Abington Memorial Post No. 7069 and a state finalist for her essay.

Sunick explained that when she was given the prompt, her first thoughts naturally gravitated toward politics and American values but a quick glance around the room during a psychology class changed her mind.

“While I was sitting in class, I started to notice all of the accomplishments of my peers and the lack of respect they get for that,” she said. “When I watch TV or even the local news, I always see adults putting blame on teenagers or reality shows portraying us as reckless and immature. I think that my generation is given a bad rap for what is often portrayed on the surface, and not much attention is paid to the unique qualities we hold.”

Sunick, along with roughly 280 other members of her class, will graduate this Monday, June 16. Sunick plans on attending Kutztown University as an art education major and credits her education at Abington Heights with pushing her toward her goals.

“My school alone is different than any other because we have a stronger sense of pride and unity,” she said. “Regardless of whether or not we play a sport, we are all ‘Comet Proud.’ Not only is there a lot of spirit here, there is a lot of determination. At Abington Heights, no one settles, it’s never ‘just good enough’ or ‘passable’— all my peers try their hardest to go above and beyond their own expectations and set their goals as high as possible. Although we goof around, just like any kid would, we manage to really set a good example for those following in our paths.”

While at Abington Heights, Sunick served as president of the student council as well as captain of the debate team. She was also a member of the girls’ volleyball team, a senior leader and a volunteer member of the school’s open block committee. An avid participant in the school’s art programs, she also spent a portion of her senior year working on the school yearbook.

“As an American, I have the opportunity to make a difference,” she said. “I don’t have to be just another high-schooler or a television stereotype, I can participate in things like the Voice of Democracy contest and speak my mind. Too many people around the world are denied the right to be who they are and I am so grateful for the freedom I have to express myself.”

Sunick also expressed her belief that the generations preceding her own should have nothing to worry about when it comes to the future.

“My own generation will be the one that makes decisions and makes a difference in our world when the time comes and I am faithful that we will do a very successful job,” she said. “I see us not just as leaders, but as role models, so as generations below me follow in our footsteps they will learn from our successes and failures and continue the successful legacy.”

“My generation and this era have chipped away at restrictions on gay rights and fought for the diminishing of bullying across the country,” she continued. “We have created awareness for those struggling with issues at home and donated our time to those less fortunate than us around the globe. If we can do all of that in high school, the whole nation should be looking towards the future to see what we do next.”