The League of Women Voters of Coos County hosted their inaugural Civil Discourse Essay Contest at the 7 Devils Brewing Company in Coos Bay this past Sunday. The contest asked students from Coos County and Reedsport to submit a 250-300 word essay addressing the question, “How can all of us help promote civil discourse?” Each entry also had to construct a tweet summarizing their essay with the hashtag #civildiscourse.
After reviewing entries from around the county, a panel of judges selected the top three contestants and each student was awarded a cash prize. The winnings included $100 for first place, $75 for second place and $50 for third place.
Twelve-year old student Nathan Mullanix took home first place, Geneva Varga placed second and Shauna Phillips placed third. The three students were scored on how focused their main points were and how they were appropriately supported. They also received points from a scale of 1 to 4 on grammar, word choice, transitions, spelling and audience recognition.
Nathan’s mother Claire said she knew immediately after seeing the contest posted online they had to enter. According to the post, the essay was open to all students in high school and although Nathan didn’t meet that requirement the LOWVCC made the exception.
“He’s kind of wise beyond his years,” said Claire. “He’s very passionate about political and social issues and I knew he would enjoy doing this.”
Nathan, a 7th grade home-schooled student, said he was happy he got to do it and has some big plans ahead.
“When I grow up I want to be president,” said Nathan. “I want to make a positive change in the world.”
Second place winner Geneva Varga, 15, said she prepared for the essay by watching a lot of Ted Talks online and in her essay wanted to stress the importance of identifying misinformation online. Varga said she also wanted to promote her debate club at Southwestern Oregon Community College and to engage in talking with others who may share an opposite viewpoint.
North Bend High School senior Shauna Phillips took home third place and addressed in her essay that requiring high schools the opportunity to learn civil discourse techniques will help improve how people engaged with one another. Phillips said she is planning on attending George Fox University and majoring in exercise science in Newberg, Oregon.
LOWVCC president Susan Thornton said she was impressed and happy with the turnout for Sunday’s event. She said she hopes the essay contest will be an annual event and thought the topic of promoting a polite discussion in a much heated political environment was a good project idea.
According to Thornton, the idea was adopted from the state last year and each board was designed with the task of coming up with how they would incorporate it into their communities.
“We are going to talk about it and review the results we had this year,” said Thornton. “I can only speak for myself but I hope we can continue doing this.”