On Saturday, February 20, the Skagit Democrats presented prizes and certificates to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners of an essay contest among high school juniors and senior in Skagit County. The topic of the essay contest was “Citizen Participation is Vital to American Democracy.”

“We found the wide range of development of this topic to be fascinating – everything from Saturday Night Live and football injuries to community involvement and issues, to how the Republicans can reach young people and why people don’t vote, to a family dinner…,” said longtime Democratic Party activist Pat Edwards, who along with her husband Ed were the driving force and main sponsors of the contest.

Before presenting the awards, Pat explained the criteria used for evaluating the essays.

  1. A demonstrated understanding of the topic – Does the essay make a connection between participation and democracy?
  2. Is there an evident understanding of how democracy works? Of how citizens participate?
  3. Insight, incisiveness – Does the essay go beyond platitudes and easy answers? Does the writer make connections with real life situations?
  4. Persuasiveness – Are you convinced? Is the explanation complete, or are you left with more questions than answers?
  5. Presentation – style, clarity, vocabulary, structure, grammar.

The essays were evaluated by a committee of five judges: Kris Lytton, Don Ambrose, Bob Doll, Pat Pickett and Mark Oommen. In total 59 essays were submitted by Skagit County high school students. The essay writers were invited in ascending order to read their essays at the award presentation ceremony. The winners were:

  • 1st Place – Peri Kirkpatrick of Mount Vernon High School (winning essay)
  • 2nd Place – Patrick Johnson of Concrete High School (winning essay)
  • 3rd Place – Biruktawit Hasenbalg of LaConner High School (winning essay)

The winners were presented with checks of $750, $500 and $250 for the top three spots, respectively.