Last Thursday, the PA Chamber welcomed middle school students from across the state to Commonwealth Charter Academy in Harrisburg to take part in the first-ever Pennsylvania Civics Bee.
The participating students were finalists in regional Civics Bees that had been hosted by five local chambers of commerce (the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County; the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry; the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership; the Harrisburg Regional Chamber of Commerce and CREDC; and the Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce). To advance through the local competitions, the students wrote original essays that described how they would use civics to solve a problem unique to their communities.
The PA Chamber was proud and excited to host this initiative in partnership with the U.S. Chamber Foundation – which started the National Civics Bee through the Civic Trust one year ago – in response to the steady decline of civics education nationwide. Data shows that Americans’ civics knowledge continues to fall, with nearly half not being able to name all three branches of government and 79 percent of 8th graders scoring below proficient in civics.
PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein kicked off the event by congratulating the students for showcasing their civics knowledge, demonstrating leadership at a young age, and encouraging new generations of Americans to learn more about civics and contribute positively to their communities.
The first two rounds of the event included a live Q&A, wherein the students answered civics-based multiple-choice questions such as:
- Which of the following people have their face on U.S. currency but were not U.S. Presidents? (Answer: Alexander Hamilton and Ben Franklin)
- How did the U.S. Constitution address the problem under the Articles of Confederation that Congress had no power to ensure its laws were followed by the states?(Answer: It created an executive branch to enforce laws).
The students with the top five scores advanced to the final round, in which the students were given three minutes to describe their award-winning essay concepts to a panel of judges, and then answer questions. Judges included Kathleen McKenzie, Vice President of Community Affairs with Highmark; Michelle James, Regional Membership Development Manager with PSECU; and Joanna Crishock, Vice President of Marketing and Commercial Planning with The GIANT Company.
After tough deliberations, the judges awarded third place and $500 to Winston Cai of Charles F. Patton Middle School in Chester County; second place and $750 to Amishi Amit of Abington Heights Middle School; and first place and $1,000 to Nathaniel Gushurst also of Charles F. Patton Middle School.
The PA Chamber thanks our Civics Bee partners, the U.S. Chamber Foundation, and our regional chambers of commerce; our judges; and Commonwealth Charter Academy. We are especially grateful for the generous support of our sponsors who helped make this event possible: Presenting Sponsor, Highmark; Technology Sponsor, Intrada Technologies; and Gold Sponsors, PSECU and The GIANT Company.
The event was covered in statewide media, which can be reviewed on our “In the News” page; and will soon be aired on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.