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Essay contest deadline Dec. 1
Students, teachers can win $5,000, D.C. trip
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About the contest
Essay Question: “What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American? Trace the enduring importance of this value throughout the American story by discussing: a Founding document that reflects this value; a figure from American history who embodies this value; and examples of how you have and/or could put this value into practice.”
Essay Length: No more than 750 words.
Web site and guidelines:

ARLINGTON, VA. — High school students and their teachers are being reminded that the Bill of Rights Institute’s national Being An American Essay Contest deadline is soon approaching. The contest asks students to share their thoughts on American citizenship by answering the question: “What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American?”

Essay entries are due by Dec. 1. Teachers much submit essays online at for a chance to win cash prizes from a pool totaling nearly $200,000 and one of 54 trips to the nation’s capital (awarded both to teachers and their students).

The names of the top three prize winners in the nine contest regions will be announced at a special Washington, D.C., awards gala in the spring of 2010. The first place winners in each region and their sponsoring teachers will each receive $5,000 cash awards, second place winners $2,500, and third place winners $1,250. Honorable mention prizes of $250 will be awarded to seven students and teachers from each contest regions.

The winners will be treated to a tour of prominent national landmarks and will hear from a range of important voices on American citizenship. Last year’s winners met with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who keynoted the awards gala; NPR’s Juan Williams; Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green; FOX News commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano; and several members of Congress from winning students’ districts.

“The Being An American Essay Contest allows teachers to open a dialogue with their students about what it means to be a modern day American citizen in light of the principles upheld by our Founders, Documents and heroes,” said Bill of Rights Institute President Victoria Hughes. “Supporting contest materials, including lesson plans meeting national academic standards, are provided at no cost to teachers who want to incorporate the essay topic into the classroom.”

The contest, which has fast become the largest high school essay competition in the country, is hosted by the Bill of Rights Institute, an organization based in Arlington, Va., that provides free materials and a host of educational opportunities focused on civics and history for teachers and students across the country. The contest’s national sponsor is David H. Koch. Additional sponsors include Amway Global and the Jack Miller Family Foundation.

High school students from all 50 states and the District of Columbia are eligible to participate. Nearly 50,000 students have participated in the contest to date.

Visit the Being An American Web site at for complete rules and materials, including submission details, lesson plans and background information on the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Founders, and other Americans who have contributed to America’s shared civic values.