2023 John Sexton Essay Contest
Chandrika Tandon (Chair)
Vice Chair of NYU Board of Trustees & Grammy-Nominated Musician
Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School
Founder & Editor-in-Chief,
Teach for America's One Day Magazine
United Nations & New York
Program Director, Burma Task Force
Editor at Reuters and Award Winning reporter from WSJ
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
Head Tutor, Sentia Education; Social Policy Doctoral Student, Northwestern U.
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
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)
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.
Content will count for 75% and the following parameters will be considered:
Focus: Insightful development of a relevant thesis
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).
Source Material: Bibliography of three or more varied sources
Presentation will count for 25% and the following parameters will be considered:
Quality of Writing: Clarity, flow, vocabulary, and style
Organization: Well-structured essay, including an introduction and conclusion
Conventions: Spelling, grammar, syntax, and punctuation
We recommend that you peruse the following resources to best prepare for the contest:
Purdue Online Writing Lab's free writing and MLA guide
Our YouTube Channel for interviews by JS Scholars with leading world experts
Our Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages for ongoing news on the contest and advice on how to approach the essay
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.