Middle School Students Showcase Civics Knowledge and Leadership and 2024 National Civics Bee PA State Finals

The PA Chamber Foundation welcomed 15 middle school students to Commonwealth Charter Academy last Friday for the National Civics Bee Pennsylvania State Finals. This is the second year the PA Chamber Foundation has hosted this event in partnership with the U.S. Chamber Foundation and local chambers of commerce from across Pennsylvania. The event seeks to spread enthusiasm among young generations about civics education and community engagement.

“In just a few years, America will celebrate our nation’s 250th anniversary – a historic Pennsylvania moment marked by the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia,” PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein said in a press release prior to the event. “But in recent years, interest in and knowledge of civics has taken a sharp decline. A recent survey by the U.S. Chamber showed that 70 percent of Americans couldn’t answer basic questions about our democratic processes. The Civics Bee is committed to changing that by inspiring young people to become informed, engaged citizens and providing them with a platform to demonstrate their contributions to public life.”

The competition comprised three rounds. The first two rounds involved multiple-choice questions on tablets provided by Technology Sponsor Intrada Technologies. The top five students with the most correct answers in Rounds 1 and 2 went on to Round 3, where they provided the judges with summaries of the essays they submitted to their five local chambers on original community improvement ideas they would implement using civics.

After thoughtful deliberation, the judges named the following winners:

  • 3rd place (and the winner of $500): Gautam Mannem, from Charles F. Patton Middle School in Chester County, whose idea to reduce greenhouse gases included educating the public on the benefits of purchasing electric vehicles and reducing food waste.


  • 2nd Place (and the winner of $750): Saketh Pochiraju, from Mountain View Middle School in Cumberland County, who is determined to work across municipalities on a program that would make high-traffic roadways safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.


  • 1st Place (and the winner of $1,000 and a spot in the National Civics Bee in November): Mariya Hoja, from Fairview Middle School in Erie County, who is committed to reversing the negative health impacts of algae blooms in Lake Erie through ultrasound technology, which would reduce the blooms; and increase education about what can be done to prevent future blooms from occurring.


The PA Chamber Foundation thanks the Commonwealth Charter Academy for hosting the Civics Bee and our judges: Michael Gossert, who serves on the Governing Board of the Pennsylvania School Board Association and is also a School Board Member; Michelle James, Regional Membership Development Manager with PSECU; and PA Chamber Manager of Government Affairs Aaron Riggleman.

A special thanks to the National Civics Bee Pennsylvania State Finals event sponsors: Gold Sponsors, the PA School Boards Association and PSECU; Technology Sponsor, Intrada Technologies; and Keystone Sponsor, Aetna Better Health Kids.

Opportunities for engagement in the 2025 Civics Bee have already begun. Adults interested in next year’s competition should complete the interest form available here. Further details on the 2024 Pennsylvania State Competition are available here.

Photos from the event are available here.


Founded in 1916, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is the state's largest broad-based business association, with its membership comprising businesses of all sizes and across all industry sectors. The PA Chamber is The Statewide Voice of BusinessTM.