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NYCLU Announces Freedom Of Expression High School Winners

The New York Civil Liberties Union today announced the winners of it Freedom of Expression contest for high school students. The contest, in its second year, invited students from New York City high schools to submit entries in categories for essays, poetry and spoken word and posters that illustrated their thoughts on freedom of expression and its impact on their lives as high school students.

The theme for this year’s contest was inspired by “The Future of the First Amendment,” a recent study commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The survey questioned more than 100,000 high school students, nearly 8,000 teachers, and more than 500 principals and administrators about the First Amendment. Alarmingly, the study found that America’s high school students lack understanding of and appreciation for fundamental First Amendment rights. Despite these findings, it is clear from the scores of entries to the NYCLU contest that high school students in NYC do have an appreciation for the First Amendment and freedom of expression.

“The Constitution is alive and well in the lives of these young people, and each of these winners has addressed the importance of the First Amendment with passion and conviction. The NYCLU is proud to have been a conduit for their compelling words and images,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU.

The contest was open to NYC high school or GED students who were 21 years old or younger. First prize winners in each category received $1,000; second prize received $500 and third prize winners received $250. The winners will be acknowledged formally in a special NYCLU event, New Voices for Civil Liberties on July 25, 2005 at Symphony Space, where entertainment will be provided by Sara Kramer, star of Broadway musical Mamma Mia and up-and-coming talent Leanna Stampur.

The contest was coordinated by New York City Bill of Rights Defense Campaign Project Associate Yanilda Gonzalez. It was made possible through a grant from the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation.



  • First Place: Shakila Barakzai, Grade 11, Flushing High School
  • Second Place: Jiali Huang, Grade 11, Brooklyn Technical High School
  • Third Place: Zoë Alexis Richards, Grade 10, United Nations International High School

Poetry/Spoken Word

  • First Place: Rejoyce Owusu, Grade 10, Gateway School for Environmental Research and Technology
  • Second Place: Tasha Stanton, Grade 11, Middle College High School
  • Third Place: LaTisha Maxwell, Grade 9, Science Skills Center High School


  • First Place: Lily Wu, Grade 11, Brooklyn Technical High School
  • Second Place: Zhi Yuan Zheng, Grade 11, Baruch College Campus High School
  • Third Place: Ten-Li Guh, Grade 10, Townsend Harris High School
  • Honorable Mention: Roly Viruez, Grade 12, Newcomers High School


Essay: David Addams, director of diversity and strategic initiatives of the ACLU Affiliate Support department; Stephanie Elizondo Griest, author and co-founder of Youth Free Expression Network; Vijai Nathan, actor and stand-up comedienne Leanne Stankhe, co-founder of People’s Production House; Theresa Thanjan, social worker/activist and director of Youth Solutions at Citizens for New York.

Poetry/Spoken Word: Asha Bandele, poet and author of two volumes of poetry, a memoir and a novel; Partha Banerjee,executive director of New Jersey Immigration Policy Network; Regie Cabico, poet and winner of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe’s Grand Slam; Chris Tabron, producer, Court TV; Duy Li Tinh, writer/videographer and co-founder of Resolution Seven; Ella Turenne, artist, activist, educator and editor of an artistic commemoration of the Haitian revolution.

Poster: Daniel Fernandez, marketing director at Third World Newsreel; Lee Che Leong, project director of the NYCLU’s Teen Health Initiative; James Levy, film educator at Hunter College; Laurel O’Donnell, computer design educator; and Ella Turenne, artist and educator.

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