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 before the end of the year.

The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office is kicking off the third 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 leadership. 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 leadership. 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

What are characteristics of a servant leader? Why do you think it is important that elected officials demonstrate servant leadership?

Grades 6-8: Word Count Limit: 500 words

History has shown that one person can make a difference. How can you make a difference by being a leader in your community?

Grades 3-5: Word Count Limit: 350 words

There have been many great leaders throughout our nation and our state’s history. Select one person from Tennessee’s history and describe what makes them a great leader.

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.

What does it mean to be a great leader? Draw a picture to illustrate.


How to Submit Your Essay:

Online submission is now open! CLICK HERE to submit your essay. Essays must be submitted by November 16, 2018 online as a Word document or PDF.

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.

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

Attn: Essay Contest, 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 or would like to be notified when the online submission becomes available, please contact us at or 615-741-7956.



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 16, 2018. 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) 741-7956




2017 Civics Essay Contest Winners


9 – 12th Grade:

  • First: Simon Jolly, Hardin Valley Academy (Knox County)
  • Second: Karla Hines, Whitehaven High School (Shelby County)
  • Third: Kennedy Cole, Mt. Juliet High School (Wilson County)
  • Honorable Mention: Gaige Guyer, Powell High School (Knox County)

6 – 8th Grade:

  • First: Grace Darke, Christ the King School (Davidson County)
  • Second: Isabelle Sorensen, East Hamilton Middle High School (Hamilton County)
  • Third: Lauren Mansfield, Centertown Elementary School (Warren County)
  • Honorable Mention: Lauren Perry, Westwood Middle School (Coffee County)

3 – 5th Grade:

  • First: Annabelle Kelly, Our Lady of Perpetual Help School (Hamilton County)
  • Second: Asa Cullity, South Cumberland Elementary School (Cumberland County)
  • Third: Sam Daugherty, Homeschool, Classical Conversations (Montgomery County)
  • Honorable Mentions: Elsa Smith, Covenant Academy (Warren County); Maddie Boyd, Oak Elementary School (Shelby County)

K – 2nd Grade:

  • First: Maci Aylor, Blue Grass Elementary School (Knox County)
  • Second: Kirsten Williams, Ezell-Harding Christian School (Davidson County)
  • Third: Brady Watts, Sylvan Park Paideia Design Center (Davidson County)
  • Honorable Mention: Ava Aldridge, Allons Elementary School (Overton County)