SJA News


Senior Awarded 3rd Place in Senator Sanders' 2019 State of the Union Essay Contest

St. Johnsbury Academy senior Joe Brody of St. Johnsbury was awarded 3rd place in the 2019 State of the Union essay contest sponsored by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. In addition, Alexis Jablonski '19 of Waterford (center) and Anysa Denby '21 of Burke (right) were recognized as finalists among only 20 from across the state.


St. Johnsbury Academy senior Joseph Brody of Waterford was awarded 3rd place in the 2019 State of the Union essay contest sponsored by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. In addition, Anysa Denby '21 of Burke and Alexis Jablonski '19 of Waterford were recognized as finalists among only 20 from across the state. The essays of winners and finalists will be entered into the Congressional Record, the official archive of the United States Senate and House of Representatives. Joe, Anysa, and Alexis will join Senator Sanders for a roundtable discussion at the Statehouse in Montpelier on Saturday, February 16.

Essays were written by 600 students representing 50 schools from across Vermont, the most ever to enter the contest. According to a press release distributed by Senator Sanders' office, the contest "gives Vermont high school students an opportunity to describe which issues they would prioritize if they were president."

The release continues, "Joseph Brody, a senior at St. Johnsbury Academy, was the third-place winner with an essay on voter suppression. 'Ultimately, eliminating Voter ID laws and reforming Election Day will make voting accessible to all Americans. Voting is at the heart of democracy, and once this is realized, the quality of life for all Americans will be heightened,' Brody wrote."

Joe Brody's essay begins,

Democracy was founded on the fundamental principle that the power of government is derived from the consent of the governed. Throughout the course of our nation's history, this foundation has been fractured by the disenfranchisement of low-income and minority groups. The Jim Crow laws, for example, prevented African Americans from voting through poll taxes and literacy tests. While the means of voter suppression have become less glaring, the United States continues to systematically suppress underrepresented populations from exercising their Fifteenth Amendment right. In order to ensure that our democracy is accessible and fruitful for all, the United States must abolish Voter ID laws and reform Election Day.

Senator Sanders said, "I'm thrilled students from 50 schools from across Vermont participated in this year's essay contest... We need our students to help find solutions for the problems that face our country. This is just one small way to engage them in that process. That's what democracy is all about."

David Eckhardt, Chair of the SJA Social Studies department, said, "We are delighted to have so many of our students represented as finalists for the Senator's essay contest. The contest has provided our students with a meaningful platform for sharing their ideas and concerns with Senator Sanders."

St. Johnsbury Academy Headmaster Tom Lovett said, "I am grateful to Senator Sanders for sponsoring this annual essay contest. It is, as he says, an excellent way to engage students in discussing solutions to the problems our nation faces. I am glad our students are addressing the serious issues in our country, and I am particularly glad Joe brought to light the importance of voting rights and the need to safeguard them in our representative democracy."