Students from California, New Jersey and Arizona win top honors in NCSC’s Civics Education Essay Contest

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Molly Justice
National Center for State Courts

Students from California, New Jersey and Arizona win top honors in NCSC’s Civics Education Essay Contest

Williamsburg, Va. (April 23, 2020) Students from California, New Jersey and Arizona won first place in the National Center for State Courts’ (NCSC) 2020 Civics Education Essay Contest.

The contest focused on the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Elementary and middle school students’ question: “Why is it important that all citizens have the right to vote?” High school students were asked, “Is voting a right, privilege or responsibility? Why?”

The first-place winners include:

  • Michelle Tan, a 12th-grader at Arcadia High School, in Arcadia, California;
  • Reid Spears, an eighth-grader at Tinton Falls Middle School in Tinton Falls, New Jersey; and
  • Aydin Daniel, a fifth-grader at Basis Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Arizona.

A record number 1,618 students from 40 states participated in the contest. NCSC received essays from the Philippines, Germany and North Pole, Alaska. The most essay entries came from Tennessee, New Jersey and Florida. The nine winners received a total of $3,000 in cash.

NCSC’s essay contest is held annually to commemorate Law Day, May 1. Before judging, students’ names, schools and states are removed from the entries.

The winning essays are selected based on accuracy, creativity, and originality. This year, members of NCSC’s Board of Directors Public Affairs Committee conducted the final round of judging.

Second- and third-place winners include:

  • 9th – 12th grade: Markis Cheng from Arcadia High School in Arcadia, California, is the second-place winner, and Ashleigh Rumbaoa from Maryknoll School in Waipahu, Hawaii, is third.
  • 6th – 8th grade: Brooke Eubanks from Chickahominy Middle School in Mechanicsville, Virginia, won second place; and William McDavid from West Middle School in Centennial, Colorado, received third place.
  • 3rd – 5th grade: Abby Norris from River City Christian Academy in Decatur, Alabama, received second place; and Leah Dingal from East Milton Elementary in Milton, Florida, is third.

Read the winning essay entries here.

Several of this year’s essays shared some common themes. Many middle school essays from Florida focused on Bush v. Gore. Thomas Jefferson was quoted 10 times in the high school essays. Multiple essays referred to Black History Month, as well as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Common quotes included:

  • “If you don’t vote, you only have yourself to blame.” – George Carlin
  • “There’s no such thing as a vote that doesn’t matter.” – Barack Obama
  • “The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” – Abraham Lincoln

In the high school essays, 97 students declared voting as a right, 71 called voting a privilege, 81 said voting is a responsibility and 86 claimed voting is all three.

Every year to honor Law Day, the American Bar Association (ABA) designates a theme to highlight an important issue relating to the law or the legal system. For the past seven years, NCSC has framed its essay contest question around ABA’s Law Day subject, which in 2020 is “Your Vote, Your Voice, Our Democracy.”

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