2021 Essay Contest


Molly Justice
National Center for State Courts

Texas and California students earn top honors in NCSC’s 2021 Civics Education Essay Contest

Williamsburg, Va. (April 26, 2021) – Students from Texas and California won first place in the National Center for State Courts’ (NCSC) 2021 Civics Education Essay Contest, in which students wrote about what the rule of law means to them.

The first-place winners are:

  • Ashley Lin, a 12th grader at Arcadia High School, in Arcadia, California;
  • Caroline Rhodes, a seventh grader at Sycamore Springs Middle School in Austin, Texas; and
  • Sabina Perez, a homeschooled fourth grader from Fredericksburg, Texas.

“NCSC’s civics essay contest has grown significantly in recent years, and this year we received a record number of entries,” said NCSC President Mary C. McQueen. “Students from nearly every state and from several countries participated, each providing a voice of optimism and understanding about our justice system that is encouraging and valuable for us to hear.”

In Lin’s profound essay, she declared the rule of law an American Dream. “The rule of the law preaches the respect that every member of our community deserves, and from it I have adopted the holistic perspective that each story is a critical integrant in the design of our nation’s uniquely diverse mosaic. Beneath the variance of skin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and ability, we are one people—united by a shared language of hope and equality,” wrote Lin.

Rhodes believes “the rule of law serves to not only create order, but to protect our country from crime, bad leadership, and favoritism among citizens.”

Perez thinks "the rule of law is like a shield defending me from unfairness. It makes me feel brave to stand up for my rights and to speak up to help others.”

Second- and third-place winners include:

  • 9th – 12th grade: Katie Nguyen from Scripps Ranch High School in San Diego, California, is the second-place winner; and Chaim Moore from Oconee County High School in Watkinsville, Georgia, is the third-place winner.
  • 6th – 8th grade: Anthony Fiore from Wilson Southern Middle School in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania, won second place; and Olivia Wasmund from Seoul Foreign School in Seoul, South Korea, received third place.
  • 3rd – 5th grade: Katie Drummond from Columbus School for Girls in Columbus, Ohio, received second place; and Holden Cone from Minnesauke Elementary School from East Setauket, New York, is third.

Read the winning essay entries here.

A record number of 1,826 students from 48 states participated in the contest. NCSC received essays from 10 countries, including the United States. There were 1,300 high school entries. This is the first year a winner from an American living abroad placed in the contest. The nine winners received a total of $3,000 in cash.

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 2021 is “Advancing the Rule of Law Now.”

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.