Ryan Smith, a senior at West Haven High School, has won the first prize of $1,000 in this year’s Connecticut Foundation for Open Government (CFOG) high school essay contest.
His essay supported raising the legal driving age in Connecticut from 16 to 17 as a way to decrease the number of teen driving fatalities was judged the best of the entries submitted from high schools across the state in this year’s contest.
A second prize of $500 was awarded to Brendan Welch, a student at East Lyme High School, who wrote that newspapers are superior to television and the Internet for news on politics and government.
The third place prize of $300 went to Kerry O’Rourke, a student at Ridgefield High School. His essay said public officials and candidates for office must forfeit, in the interests of an informed public, the privacy granted to ordinary citizens.
Students were asked to write essays on one of three topics. The topics were:
1. Explain which of the following you consider to be the most reliable and useful to you as the best source of information for politics and government: The Internet Television Newspapers and magazines.
2. The General Assembly is considering legislation tightening regulations on driver licenses for 16 year olds in an effort to reduce the number of teen age driving fatalities. Would you favor extending the present legal driving age from 16 to 17 as an effective way to address the problem?
3. Where should the line be drawn between open government and personal privacy? Should the personal privacy of public officials, political candidates and their families be open or protected?
CFOG sponsors the essay contest to encourage thought and debate among students on public and freedom of information issues and to increase student knowledge of the value of open government in a democratic society.
Honorable mention awards of $50 went to Nicholas Tokaki of Valley Regional High School; Kaitlin Maher, Elizabeth Harris and Sean Sutherland, all students at Ridgefield High School.
Judges for the contest, all CFOG Board of Director members, were: Janet Manko, publisher of the Lakeville Journal; Colleen Murphy, executive director of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission; David Fink, policy director, Partnership for Strong Communities, and Stephanie Reitz, legislative reporter for the Associated Press.
Forrest Palmer, retired newspaper publisher, was chairman of the CFOG essay contest committee.