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Students’ Political Savvy Shines Through in Essay Contest

High school students wrote 500 to 750 word essays on the balance of powers in government.

Local high school students who immersed themselves in the world of politics through the 2010 Exchange Club Scholarship Essay Contest received due recognition at the San Ramon City Council meeting Tuesday night.

The theme for this year's essay contest was the balance of power and tension between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

Applicants were required to attend at least three sessions of the Scholarship Essay Speakers Series and reference information from at least two speakers in their perspectives on how voting is important to the democratic system. In addition, students referenced Freedom Shrine documents stating the country's founding principles.

"The biggest challenge in writing the essay was putting all the ideas from these different speakers in one essay," said Dougherty Valley High School freshman Eric Wang, 14.

San Ramon Valley High School junior Emma Grager won $1,500 for first place, California High School junior Steven Lau won $1,000 for second place and Dougherty Valley High School freshman Eric Wang won $500 for third place.

"It will really help me in my academic pursuits and get a better understanding of government," Grager, 17, said. "Hopefully sometime in the future I can use that to continue to pursue justice."

Roxanne Lindsay, co-chair of the Exchange Club, the nation's largest service club and the contest sponsor, commended the quality of the nine entries.

"The students connected with the speakers very well," Lindsay said.

During the presentation, Danville Vice Mayor Karen Stepper, the club's president, read a quote from President Barack Obama in the book by Mark Curtis, "The Making of the President 2008": "If there's anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

"That may not be what he's thinking of but I would say if you saw these students and saw the scholarship that came about during the schools' semesters, that describes the students substantially," Stepper said.

Writing the essay was rewarding on many levels, said Lau, 16, who has been interested in politics for some time.

"Entering a contest like this allowed me to express my own ideas regarding politics," he said. "To win second place in a competition like this is really just an added bonus for me."

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