Essay contest celebrates 100th anniversary of NH primary

CONCORD – This year is the 100th anniversary of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, and an essay contest for New Hampshire students is just one of the activities on tap.

The contest, a collaboration between AARP New Hampshire and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, is open to New Hampshire students enrolled in civics, U.S. government or political courses in grades 9-12.

Applicants from public and private schools are eligible, as well as home-schooled students. The application deadline is Friday, April 24.

Students are invited to submit an essay about New Hampshire’s primary and the civic role New Hampshire residents play in nominating the president. Applicants should explore the significance of the primary and why political participation matters.

“Citizenship is not a passive, time-consuming affair for the onlooker and critical spectator,” AARP founder Ethel Percy Andrus said. “Citizenship is participation.”

Essays should not exceed 350 words, and they should be double-spaced and typed in 12-point Times New Roman font.

Only one entry per student.

Each entry must be accompanied by a cover sheet stating the entrant’s name, address, telephone number, email address, name of school or the word “home-schooled,” title of course, grade (or equivalent) and number of words in essay.

The panel of judges will include retired educators, Saint Anselm education department faculty, Saint Anselm students and a state official. The winner will receive an iPad, and other winners will receive Amazon gift cards.

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The first New Hampshire presidential primary was held in 1916, and it has been the first in the nation since 1920. Prior to 1952, the primary did not hold much prominence. But in 1949, laws were changed to make the primary a way to directly select candidates rather than delegates and increase voter turnout.

In the following decades, the New Hampshire primary has become a cornerstone of presidential elections.