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Every year since 2013, The Hope and Stanley Adelstein Free Speech Essay Contest challenges high school students to examine the role of free speech in the 21st century. The essay contest was established by Hope and Stanley as part of the City Club’s Centennial celebration. The Adelsteins were longtime City Club members, philanthropists, and environmental activists. Stanley joined the City Club in 1941 and remained an active member until his death in 2014. Hope’s hallmark was civic involvement, and she was active in the Cleveland community until her death in 2016.

All high school students in Northeastern 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.

The results for this year can be view here.

View the 1st place winners submissions here: Grade 11/12   Grade 9/10

2020 Essay Contest Details

2020 Prompt:

The more we use technology, the more information we provide to the people and organizations that own that technology. Some of that information may be willingly provided, while some of that information is a by-product of interacting with that technology – such as GPS tracking while using Google Maps or clicking on an advertisement on instagram.

As technology rapidly grows and becomes more integrated with our lives, data that may have been considered private or personal in the past, is now bought, sold, or traded by marketers, political campaigns, and other stakeholders. Many of them use algorithms and artificial intelligence to target and craft the messages they send—messages which may be legitimate and helpful, or false and harmful, or anywhere in between.

What effect does this tradeoff have on freedom of speech and democracy? And what, if anything, should be done about it?

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 winners are invited to attend a City Club forum with a guest and the first place winners for each category are invited to read their winning essay prior to the start of the forum.
  • Deadline: Monday, March 9, 2020

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

Last year's winners spoke at the forums featuring Alan Curtis, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Eisenhower Foundation, and Bruce D. Brown, Executive Director of Reporters Committee for Freedom. You can view the winning essays here: Grade 11/12 Grade 9/10

For any questions regarding the Essay Contest, please contact Julia Wang at

Essay Contest Winner

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

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