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September 30, 2009 > Being an American essay contest

Being an American essay contest

Submitted By Sonia Blumstein

U.S. high school students and their teachers are invited to compete for nearly $200,000 in prize money by participating in the fourth annual "Being an American" Essay Contest. Top prizewinners and their teachers will also receive all-expenses paid trips to the nation's capital.

The largest high school essay contest in the country, awarding 180 students and teachers with cash prizes and attracting more than 31,000 essays last year, explores the rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. The contest is administered by the Bill of Rights Institute, a non-profit educational organization in the Washington, D.C. area. The contest's national sponsor is David H. Koch. Additional sponsors include Amway Global and the Jack Miller Family Foundation.

"This contest is unique in that it gives students the opportunity to share their thoughts about how the principles, expressed in America's Founding Documents, shape and influence contemporary American citizenship," said Bill of Rights Institute President Victoria Hughes. "This conversation is vital to preparing the next generation of voters and civic leaders for the challenges that are ahead of them and our country."

Specifically, students are asked to share their thoughts on American citizenship by answering the following question: "What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American?"

The top three student winners and their teachers from each of the nine geographical regions will be announced at a special Washington, D.C. Awards Gala in the spring of 2010 where they will be awarded cash prizes of $5,000 (First Place), $2,500 (Second Place), and $1,250 (Third Place). The winning students will also explore the nation's capital, meet contemporary American heroes and national leaders, and visit national landmarks.

Additionally, the contest will award 126 honorable mention prizes of $250 to seven students and their teachers from each region.

Nearly 50,000 students have participated in the essay contest since it began in 2006. Now in its fourth year, the contest is the largest high school essay contest in the country.

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

Essay length must not exceed 750 words. Deadline for submissions is December 1, 2009.

For further information on submission criteria go to

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