Redmond School District students win Bend Bulletin essay contest

Dustin Berliner, a seventh-grader at Obsidian Middle School, was recently selected as a first-place winner for The Bulletin’s Newspapers in Education (NIE) “Words Matter” essay contest in the middle school category while Jaime Tracewell, a Ridgeview High junior, won first place in the high school category.

The purpose of the contest, according to The Bulletin, is to communicate facts, ideas and different points of view about complex issues.

NIE Program Coordinator Russ Donnelly explained, “they both exemplified the value of writing to an extended (authentic) audience, critical thinking, solid research, understanding how to work with informational text.”

For the essay, Berliner was tasked with writing about free speech: what it means to him and if there should be limits.

“American citizens should have free rights, including the ability to speak their mind openly without fear,” he wrote. “Free speech allows us to be more open-minded to new ideas and grow our perspectives to advance society.”

When asked what inspired his approach to his winning essay, Berliner said, “When I glance at the world and society, I don’t see much happening. Once I look deeper into what is happening, I notice people are losing their right to say whatever they want. I talked about this in my essay, when I wrote about safe spaces in college campuses, and how some people lose the right to speak their mind because people disagree with them. It’s okay to disagree with what people say, as long as we are respectful to each other.”

A second win for Tracewell, who also placed first in last year’s contest. This year, Tracewell wrote about the importance of and power of having freedom of speech in the Constitution, focusing on government overreach, availability of knowledge/information and freedom of expression.

“America must reflect on past events and reach a balance accepted by society and the government,” she wrote. “There can be neither total restriction nor freedom, as the costs of both are unreasonable and degrade civilization. The two must coexist in the same space, each one compromising in order for the other to exist.  After all, what is freedom without security, and security without freedom?”

As part of their wins, Berliner and Tracewell will each receive a $100 gift card to the shops at The Old Mill in Bend, a framed certificate of participation, and publication of their essay in the Saturday, May 19 edition of The Bulletin in the “Living and Giving” section, and on the newspaper’s website. On Thursday, May 17, they were treated to a “Words Matter” recognition ceremony and photo session with fellow essay winners, family, teachers, and Bulletin editor Erik Lukens.