Greenwich, West Haven and Foran students win top prizes;
honorable mentions to Greenwich, West Haven, Windsor
Victoria Hoffmeister, a junior at Greenwich High School, has won the first prize of $1,000 in this year’s Connecticut Foundation for Open Government (CFOG) high school essay contest.
She wrote about the Occupy Wall Street movement and the questions it raised about the use of public places for political protests. “The right to assemble is fundamental to American democracy,” she wrote. “Government cannot be truly open and accountable if it manufactures limits to unfavorable assembly and dissent.”
CFOG, a nonprofit educational organization, sponsors the essay contest each year 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.
A second prize of $500 was won by Kseniya Rogulina, a junior at West Haven High School, who also wrote about the Occupy Wall Street movement. “While violent protests should not be tolerated,” she wrote, “no limits should be placed on peaceful public protests which serve to protect the freedom of the American public.”
A third prize of $300 was won by Dana Xu, a freshman at Joseph A. Foran High School in Milford. He wrote about public scrutiny of the private lives of presidential candidates. “I think that the public has the right to know the entire person they are electing and not just the one side they choose to display,” he wrote. “Presidential candidates should be aware prior to running that there is almost no privacy; nothing is out of bounds.”
Honorable mention awards of $50 went to Michael Bond of Windsor High School, Cinthia Fabian and Ebonie Routh of West Haven High School and Jonathan Muhlrad and Alexandra Small of Greenwich High School.
Students were asked to write essays on one of three topics: The topics were:
1. The Occupy Wall Street movement raised questions about the use of public places for political protests. Should there be limits on First Amendment protections for the right to assemble?
2. Are there certain issues that are so private that they should not be part of the public discussion about candidates running for president? How would you draw the line between protecting privacy and protecting the public's right to know about the people who seek the presidency?
3. A national survey by a University of Connecticut professor found most teachers strongly oppose the free-expression rights of students in a school context. They oppose the publication of controversial articles in school newspapers and the posting of critical comments by students on social media. Should teachers be more supportive of students’ free expression?
Judges for the contest were Janet Manko, George Krimsky, Martin Margulies, Lyn Hottes and Mary Connolly.