LUZERNE COUNTY, Pa. — You've heard of a spelling bee. But what about a competition centered around American democracy?
"It's testing kids in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade across the county on their civics knowledge and bringing some fun and excitement around civics," said Hilary Crow, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
This year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is expanding its National Civics Bee into Pennsylvania.
A study showed 76 percent of eighth graders scored below proficient in civics across the nation.
"We believe that whether a kid wants to be a plumber or the president or anything in between, they really need to understand how the system works, what their rights and responsibilities are as a citizen," explained Crow.
The Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce is putting out a call to middle schoolers in Luzerne, Wyoming, and Lackawanna Counties to put their skills to the test, starting with an essay on issues they see in their communities and how they'd solve them.
"We're really hoping to see what the students think are the big issues, and from that, we'll select 20 students to compete on a local level," said Everal Eaton, senior director of operations with the Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce.
"It's really inspiring and eye-opening that even though they are younger kids, they see what's going on, and they recognize things that can be improved, and they'd like a role in doing it," said Crow.
The essays will be judged by community leaders to determine which 20 students will compete in the Regional Civics Bee.
Out of those 20, three winners will move on to the state competition in Harrisburg.
"We've seen over the past couple of years there's a lot of dialogue going on about our government, and I think these students are going to be the future of our country, so them understanding at that age how our government works and how things operate in the way things are done on a national scale that's always important," said Eaton.
Middle school students in participating states may apply for the competition here. The deadline to enter is February 24.
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