Right to tweet could get students $5,000 scholarship

By Judah Taylor

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Current and future UK students could claim $5,000 of scholarship prize money for the price of 140 characters or less.

Until 11:59 p.m. Pacific time on Dec. 15, legal U.S. residents between the ages of 14 and 22 can tweet their appreciation for the First Amendment alongside the hashtag #FreeToTweet to be entered into the Free to Tweet competition.

One winner will be chosen for each of the five First Amendment freedoms: speech, religion, press, assembly and petition. The five winners will be granted $5,000 in scholarship funds.

Sponsored by the Knight Foundation, the competition is “simply about reaching out to students and saying, ‘You should give a little thought to the First Amendment,’ ” said Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, and founder of 1 For All, the campaign behind the competition.

“It’s the easiest and quickest scholarship competition you’ll ever enter,” Paulson said. “And it has the biggest payoff per character.”

Speaking about why Twitter was chosen to reach students, Paulson said, “Studies show that out of all students, those who use social media tend to care the most about First Amendment rights. So it seemed like a good fit to use Twitter to reach them.”

Last year celebrities such as Ashley Judd, Ke$ha and Brad Paisley joined the White House in participating in the competition, which focuses on the freedoms listed in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights.

Paulson also offered advice to potential competitors.

“Focus on one of the five freedoms (in your entry). There are already hundreds of submissions, from people who apparently didn’t read the rules. So if you focus on one of the five, your chances of winning improve significantly.”

Judging criteria and complete rules can be found at FreeToTweet.org, with updates at @FreeToTweet2012.