Civic Essay Contest

Tennessee students in public, private and home schools in grades pre-K to 12 are encouraged to participate in our Civics Essay Contest.

The contest, along with the Student Mock Election, is part of the Secretary of State’s civic engagement program.

The Civics Essay Contest started in 2016 with students writing about voting. Subsequent essay themes have included citizenship, leadership, and civic duty. Winners receive a TNStars 529 College Savings Program scholarship.


About This Year’s Contest

The Secretary of State’s office is conducting their annual student Essay Contest! Our goal is to encourage students to be actively engaged citizens by recognizing their important roles as citizens of the great state of Tennessee. The theme of this year’s essay contest is “Why Your Civility Matters”. Student winners will receive a TNStars 529 Program College Savings scholarship of $100, $250, or $500 in addition to a trip to the State Capitol. See below for more details.


Essay Prompts & Requirements

This year’s essay contest prompts will be based around the theme of “Why Your Civility Matters.” Schools can choose up to two (2) essays from each grade level to submit for the contest. Essays should be typed, double spaced on 8 ½ x 11” paper. Parents may help type essays for younger grades. See below for the prompts for each grade level. Essays should answer our grade level's prompt. Essays exceeding the word limit will be automatically disqualified.

Grade Level Word Limit Essay Prompt
9-12 500-1,000 words

Why is civil discourse vital to democracy? How can citizens promote it?

6-8 300-700 words How should leaders lead?
3-5 250-500 words How can you solve problems without being mean or rude?

50-100 words accompanied by a drawing.
Drawings may not exceed 11"x17" in size.
Words can be incorporated into a drawing
or attached separately.

What ways can you show kindness? 


How to Submit Your Essay

Essays must be submitted by December 15, 2023. Click HERE to submit.

Submit Your Essay


Contest Rules

  1. Schools can submit up to two (2) essays in each grade level.
  2. Only one entry per student is allowed.
  3. Essays must be received by the Secretary of State’s office by December 15, 2023. No late entries will be accepted.
  4. Students must be enrolled in a Tennessee public, charter, private school or home school association.
  5. The essay must be the original work of the student.
  6. Family members of Tennessee Secretary of State employees are not allowed to participate.
  7. Failure to comply with the contest rules will result in disqualification.


Judging & Prizes

First, second, and third place will be awarded in each category. Placement will be decided by a panel of judges. Judges may also choose to award Honorable Mentions. Names and school affiliation will not be revealed to the judges during the process. Essays will be judged based on content, originality, and creativity.

The winners in each grade level will win a trip to the State Capitol in the spring of 2024. In addition, students will receive a scholarship through the TNStars 529 College Savings Program.

Grade category winners will receive the following scholarships:

1st Place:   $500

2nd Place: $250

3rd Place:  $100



If you have any other questions, please contact us at or (615) 741-2819.


Previous Years Winners