Essay Contest

Students writing together at a table

The essay contest submission deadline has passed. Thank you to all who have participated in the contest. Winners will be announced later this year.

The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office is kicking off our second annual civics 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 citizenship. 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 theme is citizenship. Schools can submit up to two (2) essays per grade category for the contest.

Essays must be typed and within the word count limit. Titles and works cited (if provided) do not count towards the word count limit.


Grades 9-12: Word Count Limit: 750 words

Why should citizens care about local government? What are some practical ways for citizens to engage with their local government?

Grades 6-8: Word Count Limit: 500 words

If you were in charge of creating a new country, what would you include in the constitution and why? What would be the rights and responsibilities of the citizens?

Grades 3-5: Word Count Limit: 350 words

The Tennessee Constitution says “all power is inherent in the people.” Why is it important that people participate in their government? How can they do that?

Grades K-2: Word Count Limit: 100 words accompanied by a drawing. Drawings may not exceed 11” x 17” in size. Words can be incorporated into the drawing or attached separately.

In 100 words or less, what does it mean to be a good citizen? Draw a picture to illustrate.


How to Submit Your Essay:

Essays must be submitted by November 10, 2017 online as a word document or PDF. Online submission will open in September.

K-2 entries can submit their essays and drawings online, but students will have the option to mail in their drawing if preferred. If mailing in the drawing portion of the essay, please complete an online submission form and indicate that you will be mailing in the essay and/or drawing. Please be sure to include the student's name and school with the drawing so it can be attached to the correct online submission.

K-2 drawings can be mailed to the below address.

Attn: Abby Sutton, Division of Elections
Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett
312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue
William R. Snodgrass Tower, 7th Floor
Nashville, TN 37243

Essays and drawings will not be returned, so please make a copy to keep for yourself.

If you have any problems submitting your essay, please contact us at or 615-253-5778.


Contest Rules

  1. Schools can submit up to two (2) essays in each grade category.
  2. Only one entry per student is allowed.
  3. Essays must be received by the Secretary of State’s office by November 10, 2017. No late entries will be accepted.
  4. Students must be enrolled in a Tennessee public, charter, private school or home school association.
  5. Students must be a Tennessee resident.
  6. The essay must be within the word count limit.
  7. The essay must be the original work of the student.
  8. Family members of Tennessee Secretary of State employees are not allowed to participate.
  9. Failure to comply with the contest rules will result in disqualification.


Judging & Prizes

First, second, and third place will be awarded in each category and 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 judging process. Essays will be judged based on the following: creativity, organization and development of ideas, and response to the questions.

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

Nationally ranked for investment performance, TNStars® is designed to give Tennessee families high quality investment options at a low cost to help them put aside money for higher education expenses. Tennesseans can invest directly with the program and money can be withdrawn tax-free from a TNStars® account as long as it is used for qualified post-secondary education expenses. For more information, click here.

Grade category winners will receive the following scholarships:

1st Place: $500

2nd Place: $250

3rd Place: $100

Winners will be announced later this year.    


If you have any other questions, please contact us:
(615) 253-5778




2016 Civics Essay Contest Winners


Ninth – Twelfth Grade:

  • First: David Lee, Germantown High School (Shelby County)
  • Second: Vishnu Reddy, Franklin High School (Williamson County)
  • Third: Destiny Cogdill, Rhea County Academy (Rhea County)
  • Honorable Mentions: Ashley Tomlinson, Meigs County High School (Meigs County)

Sixth – Eighth Grade:

Third – Fifth Grade:

  • First: Isabella Balturshot, Guild Elementary School (Sumner County)
  • Second: Andrew Bechtel, Poplar Grove School (Williamson County)
  • Third: Samuel Latham, East Elementary School (Madison County)
  • Honorable Mentions: Audrey Grant, East Robertson Elementary School (Robertson County); Jacob Mahan, Lara Kendall Elementary School (Lake County); Jacilyn Visor, Thelma Barker Elementary School (Madison County)

Kindergarten – Second Grade:

  • First: Katie Peachey, East Elementary School (Madison County)
  • Second: Maggie Gibson, Ezell-Harding Christian School (Davidson County)
  • Third: Emily Parker, Woodland Elementary School (Cannon County)
  • Honorable Mentions: Jillian Balcunas, Thelma Barker Elementary School (Madison County); Calleigh Kemp, Robert F. Woodall Elementary School (Robertson County); Cooper Logan, Fairview Elementary School (Blount County)