What does it mean to be an American? More than two dozen high school students will flood the Capitol Visitor Center today to meet with Members of Congress and discuss this very question.
The students are the winners of a national essay contest sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute, a nonprofit organization. The contest, which was first conceived in 2006 and received 31,595 entries this year, is aimed at encouraging students to write and helping them understand what it means to be an American citizen.
“What we’re hoping they get out of it is a deeper understanding of the role our government plays in their everyday life and their rights and responsibilities in citizenship,— contest director Jason Wilson said.
Twenty-seven contest winners were flown in for a reception at the CVC and an awards gala at the Renaissance M Street Hotel. Members of Congress, including Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) and Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), are expected at the CVC. Wilson said he hopes to get Representatives from each of the winning districts to come and meet the students.
The country is broken down into nine geographical regions and awards are given for first, second and third place as well as honorable mentions in each region. First-place winners will be given a $5,000 cash prize, second-place winners will receive $2,500, and third-place students will get $1,250. The teacher who sponsors each winning essay will also receive a matching cash prize.
In addition to the 27 winners, 63 students received honorable mentions.