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2023 Hope and Stanley Adelstein Essay Contest 

Every year since 2012, the City Club has used this essay contest to invite students to consider different aspects of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, specifically, Freedom of Speech. This year, we’re asking about issues related to the Second Amendment because they are so critically important to the safety and future of all Americans. Also, these issues we face bring to mind the most famous speech ever delivered at the City Club, Robert F. Kennedy’s comments on “the mindless menace of violence” from April 5, 1968.

All high school students in Northeast Ohio are eligible to apply for scholarship prizes. Essays should pull from personal experience, current events, history, politics, art, anything really so long as they are backed up with evidence. Essays will be judged on their clarity, content, originality, and significance.

2023 Essay Contest Details

2023 Prompt:

There is no doubt that mass shootings, either in schools or at public events, have taken a toll on American society. Parents are rightfully concerned about whether the schools their children attend will keep them safe. Some feel a sense of paranoia in public spaces, not knowing whether they could become the next victims of domestic terrorism.

Reflecting on recent events, news coverage, and analysis, provide an answer to one or more of the following questions. To what extent is the violence in our nation today a matter of the need to police guns or people? What can be done to better ensure the safety of America’s citizens? What consequences could result from stricter or more relaxed gun control? In what aspects has gun control, or lack thereof, affected your daily life? If you were a legislator, what procedures or precautions would you take to address this dividing issue? How should Americans and their elected representatives think about these very thorny issues?

Submissions for the 2023 essay contest are closed.

Submit Your Essay Here

Eligibility and details:

  • All Northeast Ohio high school students are eligible to participate
  • There are two categories of judging – 9/10 grade and 11/12 grade
  • Essays must be 500-1,000 words
  • Please use 3 to 5 articles from reliable, valid sources in your essay.
  • Each entry is assigned a number. Essays are blind-scored by number only; no student or school names are identified. Do not include student name or school name within the body of your essay. Failure to comply may result in disqualification.
  • All first-place winners of each category are invited to read their winning essays at a City Club forum.
  • Deadline: Thursday, March 30, 2023

Example sources:

See here for full scoring rubric.


11/12 Grade

  • First Place: $1,000
  • Second Place: $750
  • Third Place: $500
  • Honorable Mention: $250

9/10 Grade

  • First Place: $500
  • Second Place: $250
  • Third Place: $150
  • Honorable Mention: $100

You can view the winning essays from 2022 here: Grade 11/12 | Grade 9/11

For any questions regarding the Essay Contest, please contact Ariana Smith at

Generous support for the Free Speech Essay Contest comes from

Hope & Stanley Adelstein

Martha Holden Jennings Foundation

Essay Contest Winner

Vinay Bodapoti, 2017 Grade 11/12 Free Speech Essay Contest Winner

Want to know who is speaking next at the City Club? Sign up here.

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