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'Being American Essay Contest' under way

by jmaloni
Mon, Oct 10th 2011 07:00 am

Area high school students and their teachers are invited to participate in the Bill of Rights Institute's sixth annual "Being an American Essay Contest."

The largest contest of its kind in the country, the "Being an American Essay Contest" explores the founding principles outlined in the Constitution. The contest is administered by the Bill of Rights Institute, a non-profit educational organization in the Washington, D.C., area devoted to educating young people about the Constitution and founding principles.

The 2011-12 contest is sponsored by the History Channel.

"This contest is unique in that it gives students the opportunity to think about the important founding principles communicated in our Constitution," said Dr. Jason Ross, Bill of Rights Institute vice president of education programs. "This context is vital to helping students see their founding principles as a meaningful part of the American experiment of self-government."

Specifically, students are asked to share their thoughts on the Constitution by answering the following question: "How does the Constitution establish and maintain a culture of liberty?"

The top three student winners from each of the five geographical regions will be awarded cash prizes of $1,000 (first place), $500 (second place), and $250 (third place). Teacher sponsors for each student winner also will receive a cash prize of $100.

 "The contest not only honors and awards sponsoring teachers, but also equips them with free lesson plans and other supplemental materials that meet state and national academic standards so they can easily incorporate the essay contest into their classrooms. The contest is really a tribute to the excellent work teachers do in the important task of civic education," Ross said.

More than 80,000 students have participated in the essay contest since it began in 2006.

 "We are pleased to support the Bill of Rights Institute's 'Being an American Essay Contest,' " said Dr. Libby O'Connell, SVP, corporate outreach and chief historian for the History Channel. "The contest encourages students to think critically and truly makes the past relevant in their lives today."

Niagara County-area schools are eligible to participate in the northeastern region, which includes New York state.

Students in grades 9-12 who are U.S. citizens or legal residents and are either attending public, private, religious, or charter schools, being home-schooled, or participating in a GED or correspondence school program but are no older than 19 years of age, cane enter. Military bases and U.S. territories are also invited to participate.

Essay entries are to be no more than 1,000 words in length. Judging will be by high school teachers, under the following criteria: adherence to essay question, originality, organization, writing style and depth of analysis.

The contest began on Sept. 17 and continues to Dec. 15 at 11:59 p.m. PST. All essays must be submitted at www.BillofRightsInstitute.org/Submit. Winners will be announced in February 2012.

For further information visit www.BillofRightsInstitute.org/Contest.

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