CVU students named finalists in State of the Union essay contest

Six Champlain Valley Union High School students were named finalists in U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ eighth annual State of the Union essay contest.

The contest asks Vermont high school students to describe issues they would prioritize if they were president. This year, 585 students from 47 Vermont high schools submitted essays, according to Sanders’ office.

A panel of seven Vermont teachers served as volunteer judges. The winners were announced this week.

Marjorie Parker, a sophomore at Woodstock Union High School, was this year’s first-place winner. Parker focused on the need to prevent hate crimes, particularly against members of the LGBT community.

An essay by St. Johnsbury Academy senior Alaura Rich was the second-place winner. Rich wrote about the prohibitive cost of a college education and the need for the United States to have the best-educated workforce in the world. Oliver Minshall, a junior at Hanover High School, wrote about income inequality and was the third place winner.

The finalists and winners will join Sanders in Montpelier Saturday for a roundtable discussion at the Statehouse about the issues they addressed in their essays.

“I always enjoy speaking with these students about what they would change to make our country a better place,” said Sanders, who serves on the Senate education committee. “We need our students to help find solutions for the problems that face our country. That’s what democracy is all about.”

The winners and finalists will also have their essays entered into the Congressional Record, the official archive of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Of the 20 finalists chosen, six are CVU students:

• Lillian Cazayoux, a junior from Charlotte, wrote about how if she were president, she would devote more resources to the opioid epidemic, preventing addiction and helping those already addicted.
• Duncan McGrade, a sophomore from Charlotte, wrote about climate change and how he would work to reverse its effects on the planet.
• Lily Miner, a senior from Hinesburg, wrote that she would invest in renewable energy such as wind and solar to replace the use of fossil fuels.
• Zoe Prue, a junior from Hinesburg, wrote about the need for affordable and accessible healthcare for everyone in the country.
• Elizabeth Toensing, a junior from Charlotte, addressed the lack of affordable treatment options for opiod addicts and made a humane as well as economic case for addiction treatment.
• Ella Whitman, a junior from Shelburne, wrote about the importance of treating others with respect, basing her essay on CVU’s three rules of respect for self, for each other, and for their place.

The student essays are online at

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