High School Essay Contest Opens for 2011-2012

Being an American Essay Contest Focuses on Constitution

Students and Their Teachers Compete for Cash Prizes Up to $1,000

U.S. high school students and their teachers are invited to participate in the Bill of Rights Institute’s sixth annual Being an American Essay Contest.

The largest contest of its kind in the country, the Being an American Essay Contest explores the Founding principles outlined in the Constitution. The contest is administered by the Bill of Rights Institute, a non-profit educational organization in the Washington, D.C. area devoted to educating young people about the Constitution and Founding principles. The 2011-2012 contest is sponsored by the History Channel.



“This contest is unique in that it gives students the opportunity to think about the important Founding principles communicated in our Constitution,” said Dr. Jason Ross, Bill of Rights Institute Vice President of Education Programs. “This context is vital to helping students see their Founding principles as a meaningful part of the American experiment of self-government.”

Specifically, students are asked to share their thoughts on the Constitution by answering the following question: “How does the Constitution establish and maintain a culture of liberty?”


The top three student winners from each of the five geographical regions will be awarded cash prizes of $1,000 (First Place), $500 (Second Place), and $250 (Third Place). Teacher sponsors for each student winner will also receive a cash prize of $100.  


Over 80,000 students have participated in the essay contest since it began in 2006.  “We are pleased to support the Bill of Rights Institute’s Being an American Essay Contest,” said Dr. Libby O'Connell, SVP, Corporate Outreach and Chief Historian, History Channel. "The contest encourages students to think critically and truly makes the past relevant in their lives today."


Complete contest details can be found below.  Further information, including submission criteria, lesson plans and background information on the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Founders and the Founding principles are available at  


The contest is sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute, Arlington, VA.  The Bill of Rights Institute, founded in 1999, is a nonprofit educational organization. The mission of the Bill of Rights Institute is to educate young people about the words and ideas of America's Founders, the liberties guaranteed in our Founding documents, and how our Founding principles continue to affect and shape a free society.


Funding provided by the History Channel (New York City, NY).  Eligibility is open to students in grades 9-12 who are U.S. citizens or legal residents and are either attending public, private, religious, or charter schools, 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.  The essay must not exceed 1,000 words.  Judging will be based upon

·         Adherence to Essay Question

·         Originality

·         Organization

·         Writing Style

·         Depth of Analysis


Student cash prizes will be awarded in increments of three cash prizes per region

·         First Prize:                               $1,000 each

·         Second Prize:                           $500 each

·         Third Prize:                            $250 each

DEADLINE FOR ESSAY SUBMISSIONS:  December 15, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. PST. All essays must be submitted  Winners will be announced February 2012.  Web site and Contest Guidelines are available at

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