The New York Civil Liberties Union today proudly announced the winners of its annual Freedom of Expression Contest, which invites young people in New York City to channel their creativity toward defending and expanding civil liberties in the city, state and nationwide.

The annual contest, funded by a grant from the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation, asks youth to explore a topic relevant to their lives and related to civil rights and liberties. This year, the contest asked young people: What do you stand for? Entries covered a wide range of issues, including LGBT rights, racial justice, reproductive freedom and immigration.

"To see so many young people express a passionate commitment to civil liberties and social justice is inspiring," said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director. "Each of these winners tackled complex issues with intelligence, clarity and conviction. The NYCLU is proud to be a vehicle for their talent and creativity."

Awardees were invited to attend the NYCLU's annual Broadway Stands Up for Freedom! benefit concert on July 25. Dozens of Broadway's finest - including musical director Seth Rudetsky and leading actors from The Book of Mormon, American Idiot, Baby It’s You!, Rent, Avenue Q, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee took the stage to salute the students and the NYCLU’s youth programs.

This year more than 300 students submitted entries. The submissions were judged in four categories: essays, poetry, visual arts and multimedia. The contest was open to New York City youth 21 years old and younger. First-prize winners in each category received $500; second-prize winners, $200; and third-prize winners, $75.

The NYCLU also honored teachers citywide for engaging their students in the Freedom of Expression Contest: Ms. J. Manco of Port Richmond High School, Mr. John O’ Malley of Townsend Harris High School, Mr. Jared Yapkowitz of The School of Diplomacy, Mr. Taylor of the Professional Performing Arts School, Mr. Mark Braly of The Forward School of Creative Writing, Mr. Rivera of the Legacy School for Integrated Studies, Ms. Linda Weissman of Stuyvessant and Ms. Judith Rosenbaum of Brooklyn College Academy.

The Winners


  • First: Gerald Nelson, Stuyvesant High School
  • Second: Danielle Stokel, Clara Barton High School
  • Third: Akachi Patricia Ukwu, Brooklyn College Academy
  • Hon. Mention: Beatriz Ariza, City College of New York
  • Hon. Mention: Jesse Ortiz, Hempstead High School


  • First: Kecia Romiel, Stanley M. Isaacs Center
  • Second: Abigail Bogle, World Journalism Preparatory School
  • Third: Ms. Hibbard’s Class, Cooke Center for Learning and Development
  • Hon. Mention: Liany Mercado, Shanel Montano, Patrick Griffith, Jesse Ortiz, Explorations Academy High School
  • Hon. Mention: Stephanie Echevarria, Project Reach Youth, Lutheran Family Centers


  • First: Mareena George, Townsend Harris High School
  • Second: Liza Philidor
  • Third: Allison Lawson, Queens Gateway to Health Sciences Secondary School
  • Hon. Mention: Carlos Perez, Townsend Harris High School
  • Hon. Mention: Shaina Labissiere, Thomas Askin Youth Program


  • First: Claudia Yau, Stuyvesant High School
  • Second: Jamie Sterner, Port Richmond High School
  • Third: Christina Nam, The Bronx High School of Science
  • Hon. Mention: Phyllis Yao, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School
  • Hon. Mention: Briana McFarlane, Port Richmond High School