A Braden River High senior and two Lakewood Ranch High seniors claim top prizes in Constitution Day essay contest.
When Lakewood Ranch High School senior Mariette Tomlinson started analyzing the Constitution in preparation for the School District of Manatee County’s Constitution Day Essay Contest, she thought it wasn’t representative of her as a female African American.
After further evaluation, she changed her perspective.
“I started talking about how the Constitution is like a human: It’s flawed, but we, as a society, have built it up to be representative of all of us,” she said. “I talked about my transition from basically thinking the Constitution isn’t for me to seeing how the Constitution represents all of us in the best way possible.”
Tomlinson’s essay on “What the Constitution Means to Me” placed second in the Constitution Day essay contest, and she was awarded a $200 cash prize.
Braden River High School senior Madigan Wilford placed first in the competition and earned a $300 cash prize, and Lakewood Ranch High School senior Joey Robertson placed third and received a $100 cash prize.
Tomlinson said she was surprised to find out she was one of five finalists and elated when she was announced as the second-place winner out of the more than 150 submissions from seniors across the district during a Manatee County Bar Association meeting Sept. 25.
“A lot of people have said it’s not really surprising,” she said of her award. “I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t expect so many people to believe in me and my talent.’ I also have this newfound appreciation for this document that is representative of all America.”
Tomlinson said placing second has shown her writing has grown in her years at Lakewood Ranch High School.
“I take a lot of pride in my writing, so it’s really an honor to be recognized for my time,” she said.
When Wilford was given the essay as an assignment, she knew exactly what to write.
She wrote about the idea of the writers of the Constitution being flawed yet creating ideas that remain true centuries later as well as the document having a way to edit itself.
“Every system of government will have its flaws, and the people who participate in that government will also be flawed,” Wilford said. “It’s important to acknowledge that collaboration and cooperation between people can create a very effective and essential establishment of rights.”
Wilford said she was delighted to have the opportunity to write the essay because it allowed her to communicate her thoughts on the Constitution.
“It means a lot to me that other people could also appreciate these ideas,” she said.
Wilford will read her essay at the School Board of Manatee County’s meeting Oct. 8.
Although his was required for his government class, Robertson wanted his essay to stand out from other students’ submissions, and he was striving to receive an A on the assignment.
“I didn’t think I’d ever be able to put something good enough together that would end up being a finalist,” Robertson said. “I was just speaking my views and hoping that I would get a passing grade on it.”
Robertson’s approach to his essay included analyzing the document from historical, present and future perspectives.
“It’s a token of our past, the way we can look into our history of how our government was first created,” Robertson said. “In the present, I said it’s our means of keeping peace and order within the U.S., just how we run ourselves every day and how it affects us every day. In regards to the future, it’s the framework, the path that we’re going to be able to go down to help us continue our success.”
Robertson said becoming a finalist and placing third overall was a shock.
“I think me, as well as my classmates, were kind of blown away because it was not something I was expecting at all,” he said. “Being able to be recognized and realizing my work made it this far into the district was something that was really amazing for me. I’m really proud.”