Simon Jolly, an 18-year-old senior at Hardin Valley Academy, recently won a $500 scholarship by taking first place in the 9-12th grade division of the state of Tennessee’s 2017 Civics Essay contest. His winning piece was a persuasive argument for getting involved with local government and a list of practical ways to do so.
That’s not just theory to him. Jolly is vice president of the HVA student body and has been involved in student government since his freshman year and in middle school before that. He has spoken up at meetings of the Knox County school board about changes to the county-wide harassment policy and other issues that matter to his peers. In 2016, before he could vote himself, he volunteered for Gloria Johnson’s state House campaign. He knocked on doors, worked phone banks and helped with database maintenance.
He also holds a position as treasurer for the national chapter of the Technology Students Association, an organization he’s been involved with since he was a sixth grader at Karns Middle School. Through the TSA, he’s gotten to travel to the state Legislature and make a case for funding for programs that support science and technology at schools.
AP U.S. history teacher Andrea Guy encouraged Jolly to enter the essay contest. More than 1,000 students entered in the various age divisions from across the state.
Although he isn’t yet sure where he will be going after high school (Brown would be his dream school), he knows he wants to study environmental science, with an eye toward a career that would involve shaping public policy and keeping environmental progress going.
“We need to be doing a whole lot more, and instead, we’re taking steps back,” Jolly says. “Be proactive, not reactive,” he cites as the best advice he ever received, something he heard as a middle schooler and took to heart. Certainly, it has propelled him to a high school career full of success and a future of promise.
The annual civics essay contest is part of a civic engagement program from the office of Secretary of State Tre Hargett. Knox County also boasted the first-place winner in the K-2nd category, Maci Aylor of Blue Grass Elementary; and an honorable mention in the grades 9-12 division, Gaige Guyer of Powell High School.