Civics Bee entry deadline coming up

2023 Civics Bee Winners (Courtesy Photo)

Middle school students from across Ector County are invited to participate in the Civics Bee being organized by the Odessa Chamber of Commerce.

Cash prizes of $500 for first place; $250 for second place; and $125 for third place are available locally. The state prize for first place is $1,000; second place is $500; and third place is $250.

The local bee will be held April 6 at University of Texas Permian Basin and moderated by Pat Canty, regional vice president/publisher of the Odessa American who did the honors last year.

Odessa Chamber President and CEO Renee Earls said the Abell-Hanger Foundation is sponsoring the bee. They are hoping it will incentivize teachers to encourage students to apply.

“Last year we got applicants, but we didn’t get any from ECISD so we thought we need to do something to incentivize the teachers because I think if the student or parent sees that then they’re going to encourage their student to apply. It doesn’t take long to get to a 500-word essay,” Earls said.

She added that right now more than ever we need to be aware of the importance of civics and the role it plays in our past and future.

“It’s a pretty amazing program,” Earls said.

The deadline to submit essays is Jan. 22. Everything is submitted electronically, however, if a student can’t do that, they can submit a hard copy postmarked by Jan. 22 to the Odessa Chamber of Commerce, 700 N. Grant Ave., Suite 200, Odessa, Texas, 79761.

The essay should include:

  • What is the problem and how do different members in your community or neighborhood view it?
  • What civic principles or systems could help address the problem?
  • What is your idea or recommendation for solving the problem?
  • What primary sources, such as the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution, provide supporting evidence or examples for your idea or recommendation?
  • How might members of your community or neighborhood bring your idea or recommendation to life?

Essays will be evaluated based on how well you demonstrate an understanding of civics; acknowledge and address opposing points of view; use primary sources; and clearly describe an idea innovative or new to you.

The first part of the bee is the civics test. There are two rounds of that before they enter a live round which includes questions from the judges where students are asked about their essays, what they wrote about, why they wrote about it and why they chose their particular topic, Earls said.

“The judges ask them questions back and forth. Then the judges go back and grade each student … The top three winners get to go to the state bee, which last year was held in Dallas in August,” she added.

Executive Director of the Education Partnership of the Permian Basin Adrian Vega was a judge last year. Vega said he was proud to serve in the role and thought it was a neat community event.

“For the Chamber to be able to host a civics bee, that’s a pretty cool opportunity for middle school students to learn more about civics, local government, state-level government and U.S. government and how it all works. The sooner a young man or woman can be engaged in that, from my perspective I think the more likely they will grow a greater sense of awareness of how things work to get more involved and active as they continue to grow,” Vega said.

Earls doesn’t know yet where or when the state bee will be this year, but the winner of the Texas Bee will go to the national bee.