New Jersey and Virginia students given top honors for NCSC’s Civics Education Essay Contest

Lorri Montgomery
Director of Communications
National Center for State Courts

Williamsburg, Va. (April 30, 2015) -- Victoria Bliley, a fifth-grade student at Walsingham Academy Lower School in Williamsburg, Virginia, and Rebecca Yermish, a seventh-grade student at DeMasi Middle School in Evesham Township, New Jersey, are the first place winners of the National Center for State Courts’ (NCSC) 2015 Civics Education Essay Contest, held to recognize Law Day, May 1. Contest entries were in two age categories: third to fifth grade and sixth to eighth grade. Each age group was asked a question about the impact of bullying. 

Third to fifth-grade students from across the country were asked, “What should you do if you or a classmate are being bullied?” Sixth to eighth graders addressed the question: “Why is bullying an issue that needs to be addressed? What can you, your school, your parents and your classmates do to stop it?”

NCSC received 321 entries representing 16 states. Before judging, students’ names, schools, and the representative states were removed from the entries. Judges were Colorado State Court Administrator Gerald Marroney, a member of the NCSC Board of Directors, and Annette Boyd-Pitts, executive director of the Florida Law Related Education Association. Ms. Boyd-Pitts was the 2014 recipient of NCSC’s Sandra Day O’Connor Award for the Advancement of Civics Education.

Second and third place winners:

  • 3rd – 5th grade: Dominique Luna from Park Meadows Elementary School in Glendale, Arizona, received second place, and Priyanka Fayson from Monocacy Elementary School in Barnesville, Maryland, received third place. 
  • 6th – 8th grade: Josiah Buskirk from Trickum Middle School in Lilburn, Georgia, won second place, and Kai Hartmann from Meadowdale Middle School in Lynnwood, Washington, is the third place winner.

Read the winning essay entries here.

The winning essays were selected based on originality and creativity. Bliley created an acronym in her essay to help victims of bullying remember to stay S.T.R.O.N.G.: Stand up for yourself; Trust friends and teachers; Remember to be the bigger person; Only talk to teachers, friends, and family about this; Never let a bully get to you; and Go and stop the bully. In Yermish’s essay, Words Can ALWAYS Hurt Me, she recommends team work to help a school solve its bullying issues. “Schools could do a once-a-week field day where students have to work in groups to solve problems. Students would become friendly with each other by overcoming challenges together.”

Law Day 2015 celebrates the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, which was created, in part, because King John bullied the barons. NCSC selected bullying as the essay theme because the issue resonates with today’s students – and it provides a history lesson as well. 

The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit court organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation’s state courts.


National Center for State Courts, 300 Newport Avenue, Williamsburg, VA  23185-4147