What’s a problem facing your community, and how could a citizen solve it?

That was the question posed to area middle-school students to launch the civics bee contest hosted by the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce on Friday, April 19 at Indiana University East. The event aims to encourage young people to engage in civics and contribute to their communities.

Sixth, seventh and eighth graders from Hagerstown Jr./Sr. High School, Hibberd Intermediate, Northeastern Middle School and Richmond Friends School competed. A first round essay presentation led to a selection of finalists to participate in the second round — quiz questions testing civics knowledge.

The Wayne County Chamber of Commerce’s Shawntel Baker presents Ellie Fost with a $500 check for a first place win in Friday’s civics bee. Supplied photo by Jennie Kiffmeyer

Ellie Fost from Richmond Friends School won first place and received a cash prize of $500. Sadie Penrod from Hibberd came in second, and Marisol Colaj from Hibberd came in third. The Indiana state competition will be held Aug. 22-23 when participants will compete for even larger prizes, and state finalists who advance to the national competition will compete for prizes worth more than $50,000.

Participants are judged on their knowledge of civic principles such as rights, consent of the governed, separation of powers, federalism, rule of law and private property, as well as of civic virtues such as humility, integrity, moderation, respect and responsibility. They’re asked to provide supporting evidence and examples for their ideas, as well as acknowledge and address other points of view.

A 2018 study published in Child Development showed that increased civic engagement when someone is young can be associated with positive outcomes later in life, including income and education level.

Photos by Joshua Smith

The local event was judged by Mayor Ron Oler, Richmond Common Councilor Lucinda Wright and Wayne County Commissioner Jeff Plasterer. Rick Duncan from G101.3 served as emcee.

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A version of this article appeared in the April 24 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Chris Hardie is the owner and publisher of the Western Wayne News.