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High School Essay Contest 2012

Awards
High School Essay Contest

Topic: &#;Why do we &#; as consumers of media &#; need to obtain news from multiple feeds and not just one or two outlets?&#;

Contest Winners
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First Place National Essay Winner
($1, scholarship)
Lauryn Wu, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia
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&#; Second Place, $ Scholarship Co-winner: Aliza Diepenbrock, Spring Street International School, Friday Harbor, Washington
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&#; Second Place, $ Scholarship Co-winner: Carolyn Harper, Bob Jones High School, Madison, Alabama
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&#; Third Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Eileen Yang, Peddie School, Hightstown, New Jersey
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Resources for scholastic journalists and educators

JEA Digital Media Resources
Multimedia Tools
Guide to Broadcast/Video
Guide to Moving Online


Previous honorees

Contest Winners

&#; First Place National Essay Winner ($1, scholarship): Simon Levien, Sparta High School, Sparta, N.J.
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&#; Second Place, $ Scholarship Winner: David Oks, The Masters School, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
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&#; Third Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Christine Condon, Dulaney High School, Timonium, Md.
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Contest Winners

&#; First Place National Essay Winner ($1, scholarship): Matthew Zipf, Richard Montgomery High School, Rockville, Md.
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&#; Second Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Philip Kim, Paramus High School, Paramus, N.J.
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&#; Third Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Sania Chandrani, Parkview High School, Liburn, Ga.
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Contest Winners

&#; First Place National Essay Winner ($1, scholarship): Tianyu Lin of Milton Academy in Milton, Mass.
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&#; Second Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Phoebe Fox of La Pietra Hawaii School for Girls in Honolulu, Hawaii
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&#; Third Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Jacob Bloch of Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington, N.Y.
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Contest Winners
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&#; First Place National Essay Winner ($1, scholarship): Courtney Swafford of Write from the Heart in Wilmington, Del.
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&#; Second Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Anran Yu of Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Ariz.
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&#; Third Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Chuli Zeng of Woodbridge High School in Irvine, Calif.
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Contest Winners
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&#; First Place National Essay Winner ($1, scholarship): Hwasung (Daniel) Yoo of Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies in Richmond, Va.
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&#; Second Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Niisackey Mills of South Plainfield High School in South Plainfield, N.J.
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&#; Third Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Dustin Chandler of East Burke High School in Connellys Springs, N.C.
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Contest Winners
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&#; First Place National Essay Winner ($1, scholarship): Emerson Hardebeck of Timberline High School in Lacey, Wash.
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&#; Second Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Shaun Moran of St. Augustine Prep School in Richland, N.J.
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&#; Third Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Chris Papas of Oakton High School in Vienna, Va. Read essay [PDF, 74 KB]


Contest Winners
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&#; First Place National Essay Winner ($1, scholarship): Erin McDonough of Bishop O&#;Connell High School in Arlington, Va.
&#; Second Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Shaj Mathew of Huntingtown High School in Huntingtown, Md.
&#; Third Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Xiaonan &#;April&#; Hu of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va.


Contest Winners
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&#; First Place National Essay Winner ($1, scholarship): Alix Cohen of Cypress Bay High School, Weston, Fla.
&#; Second Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Victor Hollenberg of Staples High School, Westport, Conn.
&#; Third Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Alyssa Patrick of Eisenhower High School, Yakima, Wash.


Contest Winners
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&#; First Place National Essay Winner ($1, scholarship): Mark Brouch, Aurora Central Catholic High School, Aurora, Ill.
&#; Second Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Evan Rich, Jericho High School, Jericho, N.Y.
&#; Third Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Danna Seligman, Newbury Park High School, Newbury Park, Ca.


Contest Winners
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&#; First Place National Essay Winner ($1, scholarship): David Kelly, Broomfield High School, Broomfield, Colo.
&#; Second Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Second Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Dan Garon, Robbinsdale Armstrong High School, Plymouth, Minn.
&#; Third Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Erin Gowdy, Bob Jones High School, Madison, Ala.


Contest Winners
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&#; First Place National Essay Winner ($1, scholarship): Angelika Zych, Vanguard High School, in Ocala, Fla.
&#; Second Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Jonathan Homrighausen of Sunnyside High School in Sunnyside, Wash.
&#; Third Place, $ Scholarship Winner: Amy Brooks of Clayton High School in Clayton, Mo.


Contest Winners
&#; First Place National Essay Winner ($1, scholarship winner) : Mindy Zhang, Robinson Secondary School, Fairfax, Va.
&#; Second Place ($ scholarship winner): Zachory John Drisko, Green Hope High School, Cary, N.C.
&#; Third Place ($ scholarship winner): Katie Roberts, Home schooled, Walnut Shade, Mo.


Contest Winners
&#; First Place National Essay Winner ($1, scholarship winner): Heather Hamilton, Sentinel High School, Missoula, Mont.
&#; Second Place ($ scholarship winner): Logan Oyler, Hickory High School, Chesapeake, Va.
&#; Third Place ($ scholarship winner): Joey Muffler, Bishop Ireton High School Alexandria, VA


National First Place Winner
Jonathan Ross Kaplan, Nova High School, Davie, Fla.

National First Place Winner
Katie Pennock, West Henderson High School, Hendersonville, NC

National First Place Winner
Darcy Colson Baxter, Lansing Central High School (near Ithaca, N.Y.)

National First Place Winner
Michael Anthony Fedele III, Northwestern High School, Rock Hill, S.C.

Postmark deadline: February 23,

Nominations accepted beginning November 3,

The Sigma Delta Chi Foundation of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Education Association want to increase high school students&#; knowledge and understanding of the importance of independent media to our lives. National winners of this essay contest receive scholarship awards.

Award recognition

First Place: $1, scholarship
Second Place: $ scholarship
Third Place: $ scholarship

Entry Deadline

All entries should be postmarked by February 23,


Complete Official Rules and How to Enter

For official contest rules and information on how to enter this year&#;s High School Essay Contest, please visit this link.

Mark Gimelstein, a senior at Great Neck South High School in Great Neck, New York, won first prize for his essay, “The Audacity of Independent Thought.” He will receive a $10, college scholarship. His winning entry is included below.

Nora Faris, a junior at Concordia High School in Concordia, Missouri, took second place with her essay, “What Can I Say?: Free Speech on College Campuses” and will receive a $5, college scholarship.

The three third-place winners who will each receive $1, college scholarships are:

In his winning essay, Mark argues that “students must persevere to ensure that the freedom of speech is protected.” FIRE’s essay contest engages high school students in this effort as part of our “Know Before You Go” initiative, alerting them to the threat of censorship before they get to campus. This year, more high school students than ever before—almost 3,—submitted essays explaining why they believe free speech is important in higher education. At a time when far too many students have “unlearned liberty,” their enthusiasm is a hopeful sign for the future of free expression on campus.

FIRE would like to thank all of the participants in this year’s essay contest and wish a hearty congratulations to Mark, Nora, Alexandra, Hannah D., Asheshananda, Clayton, Minhi, Hannah R., and Brian! FIRE would also like to thank the Sandra and Lawrence Post Family Foundation for its generosity in making the essay contest possible. To read all of the winning essays, visit our contest page.

Mark Gimelstein
“The Audacity of Independent Thought”

Before my parents left the Soviet Union in the s, they lived under an oppressive regime where the concept of free speech did not exist. Anyone perceived to be critical of the government was threatened, imprisoned in the gulags, or even detained in psychiatric wards where mental and physical torture occurred. While most people had no idea that a better life was possible outside of the Soviet Union, my parents knew better, and they decided to move to the United States where they knew their basic rights and liberties would be constitutionally guaranteed. Because of what my parents went through, I’ve always been aware of how important and precious the right to free speech is and how easily it can be taken away. As someone who is never afraid to express his views at school, even though they often differ from those of my classmates, I look forward to college because of all of the opportunities it offers to become even more politically informed and engaged. However, our country’s colleges and universities—despite being elite institutions of learning in the freest nation in the world—instead often choose to indoctrinate students, silence independent thought, and enforce political correctness upon the student body. It is clear that these policies contradict the very mission of higher education, whose advancement is inextricably linked to the exercise of free speech.

When students enter institutions of higher education, they have entered a moment in their lives when their political and intellectual curiosity is at a peak. In an environment of learning, students are supposed to be encouraged to explore and make themselves into well-rounded individuals with their own thoughts and beliefs. After leaving behind the restrictive, routine-based world of high school, college students should have the autonomy to make their own decisions in order to make the transition from naïve teenagers into mature adults. As a result, when students like Andre Massena from Binghamton University and Hayden Barnes from Valdosta State University are seen protesting against their professors and universities for social justice, environmentalism, and other issues by putting up posters or flyers and sending emails expressing their concerns, it should be considered a victory for higher education. When incoming freshmen from the University of Delaware express a wide variety of differing beliefs concerning politics, race, sexuality, and other issues of the day, it should be seen as a positive step toward real dialogue and understanding among the student body. When students like Keith John Sampson of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis read books that interest them in order to educate themselves, we should view this as a success for the university.

However, all of these students who engaged in activism or exercised their right to free expression were not celebrated by their universities, but rather condemned and punished. Student activists like Andre Massena and Hayden Barnes were threatened or nearly expelled for having the nerve to express a concern or gripe with a school’s policies. Many colleges have vigorously tried to cleanse the ideologies of their students and make them only believe the views approved by the school. At the University of Delaware, university officials took “diversity training” too far by asking intrusive questions and making their students feel polarized and guilty for having unique personal beliefs. Keith John Sampson, on the other hand, was charged with violating school policy for reading literature that his university deemed politically incorrect and considered hazardous to its students. These are just a few of the many cases in which colleges and universities across the United States grossly violate their students’ rights to speak freely, which are guaranteed by the Constitution and nearly always by the university itself. From free speech zones, which isolate students into a part of campus that is far too small to accommodate for the massive student body, to speech codes, which unreasonably prohibit what students can say, think, or even wear, universities have constantly tried to interfere with and take away their students’ First Amendment rights.

If injustices like these do not stop, what are the benefits of higher education? What is the point of going to an institution in the hopes of pursuing interests and enlightening oneself?

College students, of all people, demonstrate their drive for knowledge, which requires the ability to think freely and ask important, critical questions. Colleges and universities claim the pursuit of knowledge as their goal, yet the attempted censorship of free speech, which has been ongoing for many years, is not compatible with this idea. Higher education as a principle promotes people pursuing their own interests and enlightening themselves with the multitude of resources and the autonomy that colleges and universities provide. Free speech naturally develops when people are allowed to educate and develop their ideologies and discuss them with others. When this liberty is highly censored and taken away, education becomes fundamentally different. Public discourse slowly withers away as the opinions of most students and teachers become exactly the same. Creativity disappears without any individuality, which is completely counterproductive to the overall higher education experience. People are bullied into a corner where political and intellectual diversity ends and the homogenization of “socially acceptable” opinions begins.

It is impossible for higher education to exist as it was originally intended without the guarantee of First Amendment rights to all. Both freedom of speech and higher education are complements to each other—without one, the other fails to survive. The fight to preserve this sacred liberty will be an ongoing battle, but students must persevere to ensure that the freedom of speech is protected in the present and continues to be respected by higher education institutions throughout the United States in the future.

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