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2023 John Sexton Essay Contest



Chandrika Tandon (Chair)

Vice Chair of NYU Board of Trustees & Grammy-Nominated Musician


Jesse Corburn 

Assistant Superintendent,

Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School


Ting Yu
Founder & Editor-in-Chief, 
Teach for America's One Day Magazine

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Chaumtoli Huq 

Associate Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law


Adem Carroll
United Nations & New York 
Program Director, Burma Task Force


Michael L. Weitzman 

Professor of Pediatrics & Environmental Medicine, NYU Grossman


Vanessa O'Connell 

Editor at Reuters and Award Winning reporter from WSJ

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Vanessa Gomez Brake 

Assoc. Dean of Religious & Spiritual Life at USC


Trevor W. Morrison 

Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus at NYU School of Law

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Andrew Stein 

Head Tutor, Sentia Education; Social Policy Doctoral Student, Northwestern U.


1st Place

Arnav Raval.jpg

Arnav Raval
Hightstown High School,
11th Grade

2nd Place

Peter Grande.jpeg

Peter Grande
Regis High School,
11th Grade

3rd Place

Matthew Lee.jpg

Matthew Lee
Riverdale Country School,
11th Grade

Honorable Mentions:

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Rahul Ramakrishnan
Morris Hills High School,
12th Grade

Alex Kho.jpg

Alex Kho
Riverdale Country School,
10th Grade

Kiran Yeh.jpeg

Kiran Yeh
Brooklyn Technical High School,
12th Grade

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Tahia Bristi
Queens High School for the Sciences,
12th Grade

The John Sexton Scholars Program invites high school students across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to participate in the 2023 John Sexton Essay Contest. The competition challenges students to write an original and creative research essay for the following prompt:

NYU Law professor Kenji Yoshino has discussed the tension between punishment and mercy, each of which can go to extremes without the other. Focusing on a current or past international mass conflict within the past 40 years, evaluate the potential role of a hypothetical Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), keeping this tension in mind. How would your hypothetical TRC achieve or fall short of the goal of providing victims with a balanced form of justice?

Rules & Rubric


All students must:

  • Currently be enrolled in a high school (grades 9-12)

  • Attend a high school in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut

  • Not have previously won or received an honorable mention in the John Sexton Essay Contest

  • Not be related to any member of the John Sexton Scholars Program Team or current judge

  • Only one entry per year per student

Submission Guidelines

  • The deadline is 11:59 pm EST on June 30th, 2023

  • Essays must be submitted via our website

  • The following must be submitted via our website's submission page: name, email address, high school currently attending, and current grade level.

  • Entries must be sent as a PDF document. The title should be your last name then first name. (Ex: Sexton, John)

Essay Requirements


  • No more than 600 words (excluding in-text citations and bibliography)

  • At least three varied sources, such as newspapers and journal articles, books, TED Talks, videos, documentaries, government websites, and JS Scholar Interviews 

  • Sources must be documented with in-text citations and a bibliography (MLA only)

  • Only one entry per student per year

Awards & Scholars Program

1st Place Winner: $1000

2nd Place Winner: $300

3rd Place Winner: $200

Four Honorable Mentions:  $50 each

All winners will be awarded a plaque at our event and will have their essays posted on our website

All seven winners will receive:

  • A personal Awards Ceremony for students and their families

  • Guidance on SAT and College Application

  • A unique college & career mentorship with NYU President Emeritus John Sexton

Winners will also become members of our Scholars Program, which includes:

  • Writing mentorships with our Student Journal

  • A unique collective grantmaking experience

  • Various internship opportunities

Awards are sponsored by: Justice For All

Winners will be announced and notified via email by August 1, 2023.

Past winners of the John Sexton Essay Contest have gone on to attend NYU, Harvard,

Syracuse, Yale, Cornell, and many other prestigious colleges and universities.

Judging Criteria

Content will count for 75% and the following parameters will be considered:

  1. Focus:  Insightful development of a relevant thesis

  2. Supporting Evidence:  Well researched analysis of the question and convincing arguments with specific examples (Use evidence to support your ideas; do not merely paraphrase sources).

  3. Source Material:  Bibliography of three or more varied sources


Presentation will count for 25% and the following parameters will be considered:

  1. Quality of Writing:  Clarity, flow, vocabulary, and style

  2. Organization: Well-structured essay, including an introduction and conclusion

  3. Conventions:  Spelling, grammar, syntax, and punctuation


We recommend that you peruse the following resources to best prepare for the contest: ​​


  • The Essay must be solely the work of the entrant. Plagiarism will result in disqualification.

  • Essays must not infringe on any third-party rights or intellectual property of any person, company, or organization.

  • The John Sexton Scholars Program reserves the right to print and display the essays and photographs of the contest winners.

  • Previous year winners are not eligible to compete in the contest.

  • All entries become the property of the John Sexton Scholars Program and will not be returned.

  • Decisions of the John Sexton Essay Contest Judges are final.

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