Two Local Students Vying for ‘Popular Choice Award’ in Nat’l Essay Contest on Free Press

We are part of The Trust Project

A national student essay contest about the free press and the First Amendment has added a “Popular Choice Award” so people can vote on the best entries even as a distinguished jury eventually picks the final winners later this summer. 

MKL Public Relations, which has coordinated and promoted the contest, will send a $1,000 check to the Popular Choice winner. The Popular Choice winners and the independent jury’s picks will be unveiled in mid July.  
Two local students are among the 17 national finalists, having already been named local winners and national semi-finalists after a process that featured hundreds of submissions from students living throughout the United States. Sophia Spiegel is a student at Horace Greeley High School while Maddie Stone attends Fox Lane Middle School. 
“I am honored to be an essay finalist because especially during challenging times like these, is it imperative the American people have access to reliable sources of information to make educated decisions for them and their families,” said the 16-year-old Spiegel, who completed her sophomore year of high school on Friday. “It is so rewarding to know that my words are a part of this important conversation.”
Younger students have also enthusiastically participated in the contest in the middle school age range division.
“This contest not only allows us to advocate for the freedom of the press, but gives kids a voice in the matter,” said the 13-year-old Stone, who just completed seventh grade on Friday. “It may not seem like it sometimes, but many youth have something to say.” 
By adding the Popular Choice component, contest organizers are hoping “we can get as many people as possible to read the essays and see how committed and thoughtful our students are,” said Mary Kay Lazarus of MKL Public Relations. 
“We want to share these earnest, persuasive voices with as many of our fellow citizens, of all ages and backgrounds, as possible,” Lazarus stated. “To that end we invite the public, in addition to our distinguished jury, to vote on the finalist essays.”
The winner in the three divisions (grades six to eight; grades nine to 12; and university/college students) will each receive a $5,000 check from the Boston Globe Foundation. The winning essayist with the highest ranking among the three categories will also receive a full four-year scholarship with a current total value of $152,000 to Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Prizes will be awarded in Salt Lake City on Nov. 7 at the McCarthey Family Foundation Lecture Series: In Praise of Independent Journalism.

Those interested in reading and voting on the essays can visit July 3 is the deadline to vote.
The national jury consists of an elite group of journalists and other distinguished judges. Chris Matthews of “Hardball” fame is among the 16 jurors, as is the Op-Ed page editor of the Boston Globe, a program director at the Harvard Kennedy School, and a veteran CBS News White House correspondent, among many other notables. 
A full list of the jury: 
Chair: Philip G. McCarthey. Trustee, McCarthey Family Foundation
Robert Austin. Education Specialist, Utah State Office of Education
Richard Badenhausen. Honors College Dean, Westminster College
Angelina Beitia. Development Director, League of Women Voters of Utah
Leslie Francis. Emery Distinguished Professor of Law and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of Utah
Jodi Graham. Executive Director, Utah Humanities
Heidi Legg. Host of SWING STATE podcast, founder of, media theorist
Thomas A. Lund. Professor, College Of Law, University of Utah
Mark Matheson. Professor, English, University of Utah
Chris Matthews. Author, journalist, hosted “Hardball,” lecturer at Fulbright University
Carmen Nobel. Program Director, Journalist’s Resource, Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy
Bill Plante. Veteran journalist and former CBS News Senior White House Correspondent
David Plazas. Director of Opinion and Engagement, The Tennessean
Marjorie Pritchard. Op Ed Page Editor, Boston Globe
Noella Sudbury, J.D., Founder of Sudbury Consulting
Sylvia Torti. Honors College Dean, University of Utah

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.