Essay Contest.

Scott Johnson Open Government
Essay Contest

Announcing the 2020 Scott Johnson Open Government

High School Essay Competition

Sponsored by the Washington Coalition for Open Government with support of Stokes Lawrence law firm


The purpose of this contest is twofold: to help to educate young people about the importance of open-government principles; and to honor the memory of the late Scott Johnson, a former Washington Coalition for Open Government board member and attorney with Stokes Lawrence.

The deadline for the 2020 contest is being extended to Aug. 21, 2020, to allow more students, navigating stay-at-home learning environments, the opportunity to participate. Due to the ongoing statewide school closures, we want to give parents and teachers time to promote the contest to students who may not always have easy internet access and we want to give those students every opportunity to enter. The winner will be announced at the Coalition’s Annual Madison Andersen Bunting Awards breakfast in September.

Essay Contest Information:

The 2020  topic: “What would America be like with no laws requiring government to hold open public meetings, provide open public records, and operate open courts? Would you want to live in such a country? Why or why not?”

In addition to clearness of expression and thought, essays will be judged on the entrants’ understanding of the issues of transparency, accountability and the public’s right to know. Prospective entrants are encouraged to explore the coalition’s website at to gain familiarity with WCOG’s work. They are encouraged to study the state’s Open Public Meetings Act and Public Records Act to learn about transparency and what the law requires.

Submitted essays must be 400 to 600 words and represent the original work of the contestant. Care must be taken to avoid plagiarism — the deliberate copying of material written by others. Use proper attribution.

The winner will receive a $1,000 prize and an honorary one-year non-voting membership on the board of the Washington Coalition for Open Government. Other awards may be made at the discretion of the judges and with approval of the WCOG board of directors.  The winner(s) will be notified in May. The award(s) will be presented to the winners in their home school districts in June 2020, by arrangement.

Students are encouraged to submit their work to their own high school newspaper. The entry deadline is Aug. 21, 2020 and entries must be emailed to by that date. Please submit your entries with the e-mail header: “WCOG Essay Contest”

  • Open to students in grades 9 – 12
  • Judging will occur in June.
  • The winner will be announced in June.
  • The essays may be sent as plain text in the body of the email, or as Word or PDF attachments.
  • Each email entry should include the entrant’s name, age, home address, telephone number, email address, the school currently attended. Only one entry per student is allowed.
  • The decision of the judges is final and non-reviewable.
  • All essay entries become property of the Washington Coalition for Open Government and may be reproduced and distributed as the organization sees fit, including publication on the group’s website.
  • By submitting an essay, each entrant grants permission for WCOG to use his or her name and photograph for publicity purposes, including announcement of the winners.

For more information about the contest or the Washington Coalition for Open Government, contact

Past Recipients

+2016 - Kaitlin Christensen

July 1, 2016
Winning Essay

Winner Photo cropped

Pictured: Kaitlin Christensen (Photo: David Montesino, News-Tribune)

+2014 - Justina Chen

June 3, 2014
Click Here to download press release

Chen, Justina homepage

Pictured: Justina Chen with WCOG President Toby Nixon.

Previous recipients by year – Contact our office for more information
206.622.8425 ||


Emory Hoelscher-Hull – Winner

2014   *Details above

Justina Chen*Winner
Brian Sonderen – Runner Up
Emily Halvorson – Runner Up


Daniel Manwell – Winner
Nicole Laliberte – Runner Up