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Two JCS middle schoolers take top spots in state-wide Civics Essay contest

Civics Essay Contest Winners



In a state-wide contest, two Johnson City Schools middle school students took the top two spots with Liberty Bell’s Allie O’Neil taking first place and Indian Trail’s Ela Bradshaw taking home second place in the 6-8th grade division of the 2022 Civics Essay Contest. In all, 3,841 contestants entered this year’s essay contest which is hosted by Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

Each of this year’s Civics Essay Contest winners receives a TNStars 529 College Savings Program scholarship and a trip to the State Capitol. First-place winners receive a $500 scholarship with second and third-place winners receiving $250 and $100, respectively.

“It was crazy [to win],” O’Neil said. “I wasn’t expecting to win it all, but I was pleasantly surprised.”

O’Neil said that she highlighted how students can make their voices heard during elections, even if they aren’t old enough to vote. Some of the different things she highlighted included getting involved with civics to make a difference in the future. O’Neil said that she is looking forward to taking her first trip to the Tennessee State Capital.

Bradshaw also noted that she was excited about her runner-up finish.

“I feel really happy,” she said. “My parents are really proud of me and I am proud of myself too.”

Bradshaw also highlighted different measures that students can take to be active in civics, even if they can’t legally participate.

The 2022 Civics Essay Contest was open to all Tennessee students in public, charter, private school or home school associations in grades PreK to 12. Schools chose up to two essays from each grade level to submit for the contest. 

The Secretary of State’s office launched the Civics Essay Contest in 2016. This year’s theme was Why Your Vote Matters. Previous essay themes included voting, citizenship, leadership and civic duty.

The Secretary of State’s Civics Essay Contest, Anne Dallas Dudley Award, College Voter Registration Competition and Student Mock Election are part of their longstanding civics engagement efforts to prepare students to be actively engaged citizens. The Secretary of State also offers lesson plans to help teachers to incorporate civic engagement and citizenship into their curriculum. The free lesson plans were created by Tennessee teachers and are based on the Tennessee Blue Book.

For more information about the contest, you can visit

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