Peace Essay Contest 2009

2009 CFOG Essay Contest Press Release

Ryan Smith, a senior at West Haven High School, has won the first prize of $1,000 in this year’s Connecticut Foundation for Open Government (CFOG) high school essay contest.

His essay supported raising the legal driving age in Connecticut from 16 to 17 as a way to decrease the number of teen driving fatalities was judged the best of the entries submitted from high schools across the state    in this year’s contest.

A second prize of $500 was awarded to Brendan Welch, a student at East Lyme High School, who wrote that newspapers are superior to television and the Internet for news on politics and government.

The third place prize of $300 went to Kerry O’Rourke, a student at  Ridgefield High School. His essay said public officials and candidates for office must forfeit, in the interests of an informed public, the privacy granted to ordinary citizens.

Students were asked to write essays on one of three topics. The topics were:

1.    Explain which of the following you consider to be the most reliable and useful to you as the best source of information for politics and government: The Internet Television Newspapers and magazines.

2.    The General Assembly is considering legislation tightening regulations on driver licenses for 16 year olds in an effort to reduce the number of teen age driving fatalities. Would you favor extending the present legal driving age from 16 to 17 as an effective way to address the problem?

3.    Where should the line be drawn between open government and personal privacy? Should the personal privacy of public officials, political candidates and their families be open or protected?

CFOG sponsors the essay contest to encourage thought and debate among students on public and freedom of information issues and to increase student knowledge of the value of open government in a democratic society.

Honorable mention awards of $50 went to Nicholas Tokaki of Valley Regional High School; Kaitlin Maher, Elizabeth Harris and Sean Sutherland, all students at Ridgefield High School.

Judges for the contest, all CFOG Board of Director members, were: Janet Manko, publisher of the Lakeville Journal; Colleen Murphy, executive director of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission; David Fink, policy director, Partnership for Strong Communities, and Stephanie Reitz, legislative reporter for the Associated Press.

Forrest Palmer, retired newspaper publisher, was chairman of the CFOG essay contest committee.

Essays that use a variety of sources - academic journals, news magazines, newspapers, books, government documents, publications from research organizations - fare better in the contest. Encyclopedias are not acceptable as sources. The Internet or World Wide Web should not be the only source for the essay. Previous first-place state winners and immediate relatives of directors or staff of the Institute are not eligible to participate. Previous honorable mentions are eligible to enter. Each essay will be judged according to the following criteria: quality of the research, quality of the analysis, and style and mechanics. A student may take part in the contest with the sponsorship of any school, school club, youth group, community group, or religious organization. There must be a contest coordinator - someone in the school or community who can review essays and act as the key contact between participants and the Institute. If there is no designated coordinator at the student's school or organization, the student may ask a teacher, youth group leader, club sponsor, parent, or other adult to be his/her coordinator. It is to the student's advantage to have someone review his/her essay before he/she submits it to make sure it is complete, has all the necessary forms, is free from typographical and grammatical errors, and addresses the topic. There is no formal process to become a coordinator.

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