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Christine Morganti
(505) 797-6028

Students Win Big in Essay Contest

Albuquerque, N.M.—Three New Mexico high school students will go to college with a little extra money in their pockets and some legal writing experience for their resumes as winners in the James T. Sperling High School Essay Contest, offered by the State Bar of New Mexico and sponsored by the Modrall Sperling Roehl Harris & Sisk law firm since 1997. This year’s topic was Symbolism and Freedom of Religion, which asked students to address personal freedoms in the school environment. A record 224 entries were received.

Caitlin Stone, a senior at Valley High School in Albuquerque, won the first-place prize of $1,000, with teacher David Callison receiving the classroom prize of $500. Stone participates in Mock Trial, Youth and Government, and is treasurer of the National Honor Society. She is particularly attracted to organizations that are centered on an understanding of the law and the government. Caitlin plans on attending New Mexico Tech in the fall, majoring in chemical engineering. She attends UNM as a dual credit student, earning enough credits to be classified as a sophomore. She loves to snowboard and play ping-pong and Tetris.

The second-place prize of $750 went to Kathryn Martinez, a junior at Oñate High School in Las Cruces. Martinez enjoys advanced classes, particularly AP English. She is the anchor of her school's weekly news program and recently competed at the Student Television Network national competition in Orlando, Florida. Martinez has done ballet since the age of three and is currently dancing at Michele's Dance Academy. She hopes to pursue a career in either law or broadcast journalism and is interested in attending Stanford, UCLA or UT Austin.

The third-place prize of $500 was picked up by Melecio Perea, a junior at West Las Vegas High School, Las Vegas, New Mexico. His interests include drawing, reading, and playing music. He is currently a member of the West Las Vegas High School Band and has participated in the New Mexico Highlands University Jazz Band as well. Melecio is a member of MESA where he and his teammates have received honors at district level competition. Melecio has held a 4.0 grade point average and attained the A Honor Roll throughout his high school career. Upon graduation, he plans on attending the University of New Mexico.

The three winners will be recognized at the Albuquerque Bar Association’s annual Law Day Luncheon, May 3, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Albuquerque. Chief Justice Charles W. Daniels will be the keynote speaker. The annual contest is intended to foster an appreciation of the law and provide practical legal writing experience. Held annually as part of Law Day observances, the contest is open to all New Mexico high school juniors and seniors who are asked to author an essay in response to a scenario and questions from the State Bar’s Public Legal Education Commission. After all essays were scored by members of the committee, the top essays were sent to a panel of finalist judges who then selected the top three. This year’s finalist judges were Judge John W. Pope, 13th Judicial District Court; Judge Freddie Romero, 5th Judicial District Court; and Judge Jane Shuler Gray, 5th Judicial District Court.

For over half a century, Americans have paused on May 1 of each year to reflect on the importance of being able to govern ourselves democratically under the rule of law. Law Day was declared to be a day of national dedication by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958 during the height of the Cold War. Every year, the national legal community, under the leadership of the American Bar Association, has celebrated the contributions attorneys and judges make to the administration and preservation of justice in the United States. The State Bar of New Mexico is sponsoring events throughout the next several weeks in celebration of Law Day with the heart of the celebrations centering on attorney volunteers participating in call-in programs and referral events that provide free legal counseling to New Mexicans around the state.

View the winning essays at

The State Bar of New Mexico was organized in 1886 and is composed of more than 8500 members. Its purposes are to aid the courts in administering justice and preserving the rule of law, and to foster a high standard of integrity and competence within the legal profession.