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Building up an informed, engaged, community-active generation

Fox Cities Chamber to participate in National Civics Bee

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November 14, 2023

FOX CITIES – When’s the last time you have freshened up on your civic knowledge?

For some students in the Fox Valley and other areas in Wisconsin, their answer would be recent, as they’ve started to submit essays to participate in the National Civics Bee, an annual competition that encourages young participants to have a strong civic background and be involved in their communities.

Aimee Herrick, director of events and emerging talent at the Fox Cities Chamber, said the chamber heard about the National Civics Bee through the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC).

“We partner with WMC, and they were approached by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation about us participating in the National Civics Bee,” she said. 

Herrick said it didn’t take long for the chamber to make the easy decision to participate.

“There was a recent study that was done (through NPR) that showed U.S. history and civics test scores are at an all-time low,” she said. “It said only 14% of students tested proficient in history and 22% in civics.”

In an effort to address those low scores, Herrick said any sixth-, seventh- or eighth-grader in a public, private or home school is eligible to participate.

The details
The National Civics Bee involves three different levels: local, state and national.

All students who wish to participate will start at the local level, Herrick said, by submitting a 500-word essay that identifies a problem in the student’s community and what someone can do to solve it.

In the essay, participants must answer the following questions:

What is the problem, and how do different members in your community or neighborhood view it?What civic principles or systems could help to address the problem?What is your idea or recommendation for solving the problem?What primary sources, such as the Declaration of Independence or the United States 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?
Students can submit essays until Jan. 8, 2024.

Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are eligible to participate in the National Civics Bee, starting with the local competition in their state of residence. Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Though any student in grades sixth through eighth can participate, Herrick said they are only able to apply to one competition.

Other chambers in the state participating are the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Foundation (Madison), Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce (Eau Claire), Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce Foundation (Racine) and the Greater Wausau Chamber of Commerce (Wausau).

Twenty essays from all state competitions will be chosen to participate in the live local competition, and the top three winners will receive cash prizes and advance to the state level.

“(The competition is) two rounds,” she said. “They all have tablets – it’s an online platform that also encourages audience participation. Round one is a lot of general National Civics Bee questions. There are National Civics Bee practice tests the students can take to help prepare them for that.”

Once it has dwindled to a handful of contestants, Herrick said those participants are then asked specific questions related to their essay in round two.

“They do have to know what the problem and solution in their essay are,” she said.

From there, three students will move on to the state competition, and the three winners from that competition will move onto the National Civics Bee competition in Washington, D.C. in fall 2024.

Why middle school?
Herrick said reinforcing knowledge at a young age will help students as they mature into adults.

Having a strong civic education, she said, can help students become better communicators and volunteers at a younger age.

“There was a study done that showed individuals with a strong civics education are more likely to go to and complete college, which is also meaningful,” she said. “And I think all of those skills together encourages students to communicate and plan what they want. Without the ability to voice their wants and needs, they risk allowing others to make decisions for them.”

A strong civic background, Herrick said, also encourages “more informed voters in the future.”

“Knowledge of their community in general can increase their participation and become active community members,” she said.

Preparing the future workforce
Herrick said the chamber is excited to be partnering with area schools to not only make the local event successful, but also impactful – by helping employers “build their future workforce pipeline.”

“Students who experience a high-quality civic education, they’re more likely to develop strong employability skills, such as communication and punctuality,” she said. “(This) is a mission-based partnership for us that’s going to benefit our members and business community in the long term.”

Aimee Herrick, director of events and emerging talent at the Fox Cities Chamber, said individuals with a strong civics education are more likely to attend college and be informed voters. Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

And, regardless of what jobs National Civics Bee participants decide to pursue after they graduate, Herrick said “the importance of civic literacy is super important.”

“The three key areas the U.S. Chamber always talks about when they talk about the National Civics Bee is economy, workforce and democracy as a whole,” she said. “All three of those are going to be impacted by having our students have a strong background in civics education.”

Herrick said she also believes that when people feel heard, they’ll be more engaged – something the National Civics Bee focuses on.

“The goal is to build that strong understanding of civics to create more active community members,” she said. “A civic education empowers them to be well-informed, active citizens, and gives them the opportunity to change the world around us, which is huge.”

As of right now, Herrick said the Fox Cities Chamber is planning to host the local competition at Lawrence University, but details have not yet been solidified. 

To learn more about the National Civics Bee, visit

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