The lawyers and judges of the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, and the members of the Jacksonville Federal Court Bar Association announced the winners Dec. 15 of the 2023 High School Essay Contest.
Students were asked to contemplate the concept “no taxation without representation,” in recognition of the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.
Cecilia Connor of Ponte Vedra High School was judged first place and received a $2,000 cash prize. Her teacher, Kristopher Van Beveren, received a $500 classroom grant.
The second-place essay was written by Spurthi Nrusimhadevara, of Stanton College Preparatory School, who received a $1,000 cash prize. A $500 classroom grant was presented to Nrusimhadevara’s teacher, Maura Donoher.
The $500 third-place cash prize went to Aria Brown of Samuel W. Wolfson School for Advanced Studies. A $500 classroom grant was presented to Brown’s teacher, Riley Quigley.
The awards were presented by U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard and U.S. District Judge Brian Davis during a ceremony at the Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse.
“For the last six years, the High School Essay Contest has been and continues to be an important part of the court’s community outreach. Knowledgeable and informed citizens are crucial to a healthy and functioning democracy,” Howard said in a news release.
“The court’s community outreach programs strive to educate students and adults alike about the federal judiciary and how it serves to advance the goals and ideals articulated in the United States Constitution and its Preamble.”
In addition to awarding prizes to the individual winners and their teachers, the court presented to Trinity Christian Academy the $1,000 school grant for the school with the most qualifying essays submitted, 49.
The contest attracted 128 entries from seven of the 12 counties in the Middle District Jacksonville Division — Bradford, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns — and 18 high schools.