Democracy & Me Student Voices Competition

The Democracy & Me Student Voices Competition invites young people to express their thoughts on the role of media in our democracy—in writing, audio, video, or other creative format.

Here’s the prompt for 2021:

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” — Maya Angelou

Like the humble caterpillar in its chrysalis, we’re all kind of in the dark here. No one knows how or when Americans might emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, a chaotic Presidential election, the struggle for racial justice, endless climate disasters, and everything else that’s happened this past year. Would you say we’re in the midst of a catastrophe… or a metamorphosis? How have things changed within yourself, your community, and/or your country as a whole? What’s been lost, gained, or held on to? And what comes next?

Thank you to all who entered, the deadline has now passed.

Entry Requirements:

  • Entries must be original work by an individual student in grades 8-12
  • Written essays can be no more than 500 words
  • Entries in other media (audio or video) can be no longer than 3 minutes; for artwork, up to three pieces on a single theme may be submitted
  • The use of valid sources to support the author’s theme will be considered in the judging, along with originality of thought and quality of expression
  • Submission Deadline: April 9, 2021, 11:59 p.m. EST


Two $1,000 scholarships will be awarded, one for a written essay, and one for an entry in another format (such as audio, video, or artwork). One additional $500 scholarship will be awarded to an outstanding runner-up in any category; another $500 “Freedom Friends’ Choice” scholarship will go to the student receiving top marks from our Democracy & Me intern team. Prize funds may be used toward any educational expense.

Winners will be selected and announced by May 7, 2021. The winning entries, and select runners-up, will be shared at and may be featured by WVXU.

The judging panel will include members of the WVXU news team, along with other media professionals and community partners.

Bonus for Teachers!

Teachers of students submitting essays to the competition will be included in a random drawing to win a $500 cash prize to utilize in their classroom (physical or virtual). Teachers with multiple students participating will receive an entry for each student. One winner will be selected at random prior to May 7, 2021.

Need some inspiration? Here’s a link to last year’s contest winners.

Democracy & Me Student Essay Competition Official Rules

1. How to Enter
No Purchase Necessary. Promotion begins at 12:00 AM ET on Monday, February 22 2021, and ends at 11:59 PM ET on Friday, April 9, 2021. To enter the competition, visit the Democracy & Me website at You will be automatically entered in the competition when you provide your name, and email address, school and teacher information, and upload your entry via the submission form provided at You must provide all information required on the form in addition to the submitted entry. Essays must be a student’s original work and no longer than 500 words. Audio or video entries can be no longer than 3 minutes. For artwork, up to 3 pieces on a single theme may be submitted. Entries can also be made by mail. Accompanying the entry must be the student’s name, email address, school, and teacher’s information. Entries must be mailed to Democracy & Me Student Voices Competition, WVXU, 1223 Central Parkway, Cincinnati OH, 45214.

Limit one entry per person or e-mail address, regardless of method of entry. No responsibility is assumed by the Sponsor for lost, late, damaged, incomplete, stolen, postage due, illegible, or misdirected mail, or for human error or any computer, online, telephone, or technical malfunctions that may occur. All entries become the property of Cincinnati Public Radio and will not be returned.

All teachers’ names included in the entries submitted will be placed in a random drawing.

2. Winner Selection/Announcement Dates
Entries will be reviewed and winners selected by a judging team identified by WVXU, utilizing the competition’s judging rubrics. All teachers’ names received in entry submissions will be placed in a drawing with a winner selected at random. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. Winners will be announced by WVXU via on-air announcement, website and email.

3. Prize
Two Competition winners will each receive a $1,000 scholarship that can be used for high school or college expenses: one for a written entry and one for an entry in another format (audio, video or artwork). No substitution, transfer, or assignment of the prize is permitted by the winner. One $500 scholarship will be awarded to an outstanding runner-up in any category. An additional $500 scholarship will be awarded to the student receiving the highest score from the Democracy & Me intern team.

Teacher Drawing: One teacher name will be selected in a random drawing to receive $500 that can be used for classroom resources. No substitution, transfer, or assignment of the prize is permitted by the winner. Only one prize will be presented.

4. Eligibility
Students entering the competition must be attending school, or home school, and in grades 8 to 12. Employees of WVXU, Cincinnati Public Radio, its affiliated radio stations and their respective affiliated and subsidiary companies, partners and members of the immediate families or households of such employees are not eligible. Void where prohibited.

5. General Conditions
The competition entrants agree to be bound by the terms of these Official Rules and by the decisions of the judges, which are final and binding on all matters pertaining to this Sweepstakes. This competition is governed by the laws of the United States. All federal, state, and local laws and regulations apply. All federal and state taxes on the prize are the sole responsibility of the prize winner. The prizes will be awarded and the first winner will be notified via email, mail or phone.

6. Notification
Return of any prize/prize notification as undeliverable may result in disqualification and selection of an alternate winner. In the event that the winner declines the prize, it is at Cincinnati Public Radio’s discretion to choose an alternate winner or retain the prize for another drawing or purpose. Acceptance of a prize constitutes permission for Cincinnati Public Radio to use winner’s name and state of residence for advertising and promotional purposes without additional compensation unless prohibited by law. By entering, participants release and hold harmless Cincinnati Public Radio from any and all liability or any injuries, loss, or damage of any kind arising from or in connection with this competition or any prize won.

7. Contest void where prohibited by law.