Winners of Statewide Student Contest Make Their Political Voices Heard

Oct. 31, 2008

AUSTIN, Texas — More than 200 middle and high school students from across Texas made their political voices heard through the 2008 Tex Elects contest, which incorporates Get Out the Vote activities into the classroom.

Thirty-six students, and a class of fifth and sixth graders, placed in four campaign messaging categories—persuasive essay, 60-second videotaped public service announcement, poster design and Web site—designed to encourage their peers and parents to participate in the electoral process.

"Interest in the Tex Elects contest was high this year with a 200 percent increase in participation over the last contest, held in 2004," said Deborah Wise, senior program coordinator at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation at The University of Texas at Austin. "We received entries from as close as Austin to as far away as Laredo and Fruitvale."

Civics and social studies teachers across the state incorporated Tex Elects into their curricula this semester in hopes of providing a compelling way to talk about the election and the importance of voting. By inviting students to use their writing, editing, filming and design skills contest organizers hope to engage young people in campaign activities and learn about the political process

Below is the list of the 2008 Tex Elects Contest winners with the names of teachers in parentheses. The winning entries can be seen online at Tex Elects.

Essay Contest - High School

  • 1st place: Kyle Obermann, McCallum High School, Austin (Jim Furgeson)
  • 2nd place: Zoey Lichtenheld, McCallum High School, Austin (Jim Furgeson)
  • 3rd place: Jessica Sanders, Hawkins High School, Hawkins (Jeri Holcomb)

Essay Contest - Middle School

  • 1st place: Marcel Carter, Clint Small Middle School, Austin (Stella Flores)
  • 2nd place: Conner Wilkinson, United Day School, Laredo (Deedee Hrncir)
  • 3rd place: Alexa Villareal, United Day School, Laredo (Deedee Hrncir)

Public Service Announcement - High School

  • 1st place: Jefferson Ellinger, Joel Pearson and Austin Wise, McCallum High School, Austin (Jim Furgeson)
  • 2nd place: James Parker, McCallum High School, Austin (Jim Furgeson)
  • 3rd place: Dylan Betnar, Nicole Prete, McCallum High School, Austin (Jim Furgeson)

Public Service Announcement - Middle School

  • 1st place: Maen Elaiwat and Matthew Kirchner, Covington Middle School, Austin (Sean Piper)
  • 2nd place: Fifth and sixth grade class, Fairfield Elementary School, Fairfield (Rachel Bossier)
  • 3rd place: Madison Goldston, Belton Middle School, Belton (Allison Starling)

Poster Contest - High School

  • 1st place: Price Ferhill, McCallum High School, Austin (Jim Furgeson)
  • 2nd place: Hannah Howard, Roosevelt High School, San Antonio (Paola Pino)
  • 2nd place: Natalie C. Houchins, McCallum High School, Austin (Jim Furgeson)
  • 3rd place: Juan Garcia, Barbara Jordan High School, Houston (Reginald Thomas)

Poster Contest - Middle School

  • 1st place: Nick Curry, Hallsville Middle School, Hallsville (Wendy King)
  • 2nd place: Denise Salas, Moore Magnet School, Tyler (Daniel S. Killian)
  • 3rd place: Bruno Balderaz, Morton Ranch Junior High School, Katy (Emily Harris)

Web Site Contest - High School

  • 1st place: Jessica Hamilton, Jasmine Castellanos, Katie Liesmann, McCallum High School, Austin (Jim Furgeson)
  • 2nd place: Leslie Green, McCallum High School, Austin (Jim Furgeson)
  • 3rd place: Olivia Lupercio, Sophie Petri, Michael Meador, McCallum High School, Austin (Jim Furgeson)

Web Site Contest - Middle School

  • 1st place: Monica McGee, Fruitvale Junior High School, Fruitvale (Terrie Hagood)
  • 2nd place: Trinity Homuth, Madeline Pena, Guilherme Ribeiro and Chelsea Harper, Decatur Middle School, Decatur (Cindy Barksdale)
  • 3rd place: Christopher Elizondo, Jasmine Conner, Clint Small Middle School, Austin (Debbie Hair)

Winning entries will receive up to a $250 cash prize for their school. Prize money may be used to reward students with a party, purchase supplies, books, equipment or finance a class field trip. Students also will receive individual prizes for their efforts.

Tex Elects is one of several Annette Strauss Institute outreach programs designed to counter political cynicism and disaffection among young people in the United States and to create more voters and better citizens.

Note to editors: Please contact Deborah Wise for high-resolution images at 512-471-7210.

For more information, contact: Erin Geisler, KUT Radio, Moody College of Communication, (512) 475-8071; Deborah Wise, Annette Strauss Institute For Civic Participation, College of Communication, 512-471-7210.