John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest Winner Describes Police Reform in New Jersey

May 12, 2021
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John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest Winner Describes Police Reform in New Jersey
— Winning Essay Profiles Camden, New Jersey Mayor Dana Redd’s decision to disband and reform city’s police force —

BOSTON – The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation today announced that Anna Dougherty, a sophomore at Paul VI High School in Haddonfield, New Jersey, has won the national John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest for High School Students. The winning essay describes the political courage of Dana Redd, the first black woman to serve as mayor of Camden, New Jersey. Mayor Redd faced fierce opposition when she made the difficult decision to disband her city’s police force to form a county-run police department. Dougherty writes that by standing firm in her unpopular choice, Mayor Redd took personal and professional risks to make Camden safer for its residents. Dougherty concludes that Redd’s act of political courage benefitted the city of Camden, as crime rates decreased after the new country-run department was established.

The essay contest is sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and generously supported by John Hancock.

[Click here to read the winning essay.]

The annual Profile in Courage Essay Contest invites high school students from across the nation to write an essay on an act of political courage by a US elected official. The contest is a companion program of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award™, named for Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, which recounts the stories of eight US senators who risked their careers by embracing unpopular decisions for the greater good. This year, 2,290 essays were submitted from students in fifty states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, and from US citizens in China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Luxembourg, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Singapore, Spain, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. 

“Today more than ever it is critical for our future leaders to understand the concept of political courage and its importance in our democratic society. It is heartening to have thousands of young people participate in the Profile in Courage Essay Contest to learn about the challenges of elective office and the importance of taking difficult stands for the greater good,” said Rachel Flor, Executive Director of the Kennedy Library Foundation. “We are thrilled that Anna has discovered this pivotal moment of political courage in our country’s history and congratulate her for this extraordinary accomplishment.”

“It is an honor for John Hancock to join the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in inspiring today’s youth to learn about the importance of public service and courageous leadership,” said Thomas Samoluk, Head of External Affairs & Investigative Services at John Hancock, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation Board Member and Development Committee Chair. “We congratulate Anna Dougherty for this well-deserved recognition and celebrate the thousands of students who submitted essays about public officials who have made a difference at all levels of government.”

Dougherty will receive a $10,000 scholarship award for her accomplishment which is a joint award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and John Hancock. 

Dougherty participated in the contest as part of a class project. Her nominating teacher, Marlena Pittman, integrates the contest into her curriculum; over 1,200 of her students have submitted essays since 2005.  

When asked about her essay subject, Dougherty explained that she profiled Mayor Redd because she “wanted to learn more about a politician who made change happen locally.Dougherty added,She is an inspirational person whom I believe more people should know about. Her work on police reform intrigued me as I hope to work in the criminal justice field as a medical examiner one day."

Dougherty has been a Girl Scout for eleven years and is currently working toward her Gold Award with a focus on addressing learning disabilities. She plays the clarinet, piano, and violin, and has participated in musical theater. At her high school, she has sung in the choir and run on the varsity cross country team. She has participated in her school’s French Club and looks forward to traveling to France with her class in 2022. She has previously volunteered for her parish’s literacy program as well.

Dougherty’s nominating teacher, Ms. Marlena Pittman, will receive a John F. Kennedy Public Service Grant in the amount of $500 to be used for school projects that encourage student leadership and civic engagement.  

Sadie Bograd, a senior at Paul Laurence Dunbar in Lexington, Kentucky, was selected as the second-place winner for her essay on Zach Koung, School Board Member of Howard County, Maryland.  She will receive a $3,000 prize for this recognition.

Five students were recognized as finalists in the competition: Declan Brady, a junior at The Wheatley School in Old Westbury, New York, for his essay on Thomas Hale Boggs Sr., former US Representative, Louisiana; Rena Chen, a junior at the High School of American Studies at Lehman College in Bronx, New York, for her essay on Mark Grisanti, former US State Senator, New York; Matthew Najemy, a senior at Wayland High School in Wayland, Massachusetts, for his essay on Joe Manchin, US Senator from West Virginia; Tilly Robinson, a junior at Bloomington High School South in Bloomington, Indiana, for her essay on Jennifer McCormick, former Superintendent of Public Instruction, Indiana; Jai Singh, a junior at UWC ISAK Japan in Nagano, Japan, for his essay on Tom Rice, US Representative, South Carolina. Each finalist will receive a $1,000 prize.

Eight students were recognized as semifinalists: William Boucher, a senior at École Jeannine Manuel in Paris, France, for his essay on Caldwell Butler, former US Representative, Virginia; Julia Clavi, a junior at Ridgefield High School in Ridgefield, Connecticut, for her essay on José Canales, former US Representative, Texas; Matthew Kotcher, a sophomore at Latin School of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, for his essay on Adam Kinzinger, US Representative, Illinois; Matthew Kuster, a junior at Collegiate School in New York, New York, for his essay on Ben West, former Mayor of Nashville, Tennessee; Abigail Nickelson, a junior at Caddo Parish Magnet High School in Shreveport, Louisiana, for her essay on Richard Ogilvie, former Governor of Illinois; Isabella Peckinpaugh, a senior at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for her essay on Steve Stieglitz, former School Board Member of East Allen County, Indiana; Pavan Venkatakrishnan, a sophomore at Interlake High School in Bellevue, Washington, for his essay on John M. Spratt, former US Representative, South Carolina; and Nicolas Wyszkowski, a junior at Valley Regional High School in Deep River, Connecticut, for his essay on Lowell Weicker, former US Senator, Connecticut. Each semifinalist will receive a $100 prize. 

Ten students received honorable mention and are listed, along with winners, finalists, and semifinalists at

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation created the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 1989 to honor President Kennedy’s commitment and contribution to public service and to celebrate his May 29th birthday. The award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences. The award is named for President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage

A distinguished bipartisan committee of national, political, and community leaders selected the winning essay. Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor, Harvard University, former dean, Harvard Law School chairs the 15-member committee. Committee members are Stacey Abrams, former Georgia House Democratic Leader, David Axelrod, Political Strategist and Founder, the Institute of Politics at The University of Chicago; Joaquin Castro, Congressman, (D-TX 20th District); Carlos Curbelo, former US Congressman, (R-FL 26th District); Christopher Dodd, former Chairman and CEO, Motion Picture Association of America, former US Senator (D-CT); Adam Frankel, Senior Advisor to Emerson Collective and Fenway Strategies, former Speechwriter to President Barack Obama; Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense Fund; Caroline Kennedy, Honorary President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Marne Levine, Vice President of Global Partnerships and Business Development, Facebook; Claire McCaskill, former US Senator (D-MO); William H. McRaven, Admiral, USN (Retired); Beth Myers, Principal, Buckminster Strategies; Ronald L. Sargent, Chairman, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Jack Schlossberg, grandson of President Kennedy.

This contest is supported by John Hancock, one of the largest life insurers in the United States. John Hancock supports more than 10 million Americans with a broad range of financial products, including life insurance, annuities, investments, 401(k) plans, and education savings plans.  

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The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization founded in 1984 to provide financial support, staffing, and creative resources for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, a presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. The Kennedy Presidential Library and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service.