In Tight Race, Pasco County Essay Contest Winners Shine

PASCO COUNTY, FL. – Eloquently emphasizing the meaning and enduring importance of the famed opening phrase of the United States’ founding document, home-schooled Land O’ Lakes fifth-grader Lee Ellis claimed first prize in the Ninth Annual Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller Constitution Essay Contest.

“Did you know that ‘We the People’ means everyone? The rich, the poor, the young, the old, whites, blacks, men, and women are all a part of ‘We the People.’ ”

Lee noted, significantly, that the Constitution does not “give” rights, but, instead, that it guarantees them. This distinction, vital to our governing philosophy, often is misconstrued. Lee, however, nailed it:

“The Constitution is very important because it sets the framework that our government and legal systems still follow today. This framework protects the basic rights of ‘We the People’ and stops the government from having too much power. … It protects our right to privacy, our right to choose our religion, our right to vote, our right to do the things we like, and so much more!”

5th Grader Lee Ellis

Rounding out the top three are Oakstead Elementary’s Aubrey Ofoulhast Othamot and Christian Crossings Academy’s Jake Whitman. This year marked the first time students other than those attending Pasco County District Schools broke onto the medals stand.

Aubrey Ofoulhast Othamot and Jake Whitman

Reviewed stripped of identifying information by three longtime professional journalists, the ninth annual contest turned out to be the most competitive to date. Working on their own, each judge submitted a list of essays (s)he considered the 10 best. Among them, they cited 19 essays worthy of their votes.

Lee’s essay was written “with clarity, confidence, and focus,” wrote one of the judges. He “was able to connect the significance of the Constitution with the people it affected. In addition, two powerful quotes (one from Thomas Jefferson and one from John Adams) added a distinct sense of history and authority to the entry.”

Another judge saluted that Lee’s essay made solid points, then supported them with historic quotes from America’s founders, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

Aubrey’s essay, too, stressed that the Constitution guarantees freedom, including the right to criticize the government “without being punished or ridiculed.”

“If ‘we the people’ do not like the way the government is functioning,” she wrote, “we can make a petition or spread the word about them.”

It was a “solid presentation,” wrote one of the judges, demonstrating “a good grasp of the material” presented in “a straightforward and brisk manner. The use of names added substance and the explanation of the amendments put their importance in historical context.”

Jake’s handwritten essay was thorough, chock full of details that led the reader on a meaningful journey. “The writing is good,” a judge wrote. “The writer gives good examples, especially when explaining freedom of religion.”

“I can choose to be a Christian,” Jake wrote, “my friend can be Jewish, and my neighbor can believe in Buddhism. This is great because it creates a diverse country in which we can express our beliefs without fear of persecution.”

Honorable mentions went to Izabella Crockett, Emma Saclarides, Cody VanOpdorp , Treyson Workentin, Noa Ron, Paul Patrocinio, Rosaria Cage, Destin Martin, Amalia Esajas, Analise Ossa (Oakstead Elementary), Gianna Matos, Ayden Satnarain, Andrea Martinez Campos (Saint Anthony Catholic School), Nadia Koutereba, and Audrey Floyd (Christian Crossings Academy).

Each of the essays contained the ability to delight, such as this insightful passage from Saint Anthony’s Ayden Satnarian: “[T]he right to freedom of speech is also essential. Sometimes the press is annoying and won’t leave famous people alone, but they also do good.”

The top three essayists will receive trophies and gift cards. They’ll also be presented at the Nov. 16 meeting of the Pasco County School Board. Honorable mention essayists receive certificates suitable for framing.

The 10th Annual Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller Constitution Essay Contest is scheduled to kick off in late August 2022. As is traditional, the competition will be open to all fifth-grade students in Pasco County. Watch the Clerk & Comptroller website ( as well as the agency’s Facebook and Twitter pages for details.

The top three essays are posted at

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