High school students can enter a national essay contest

The Bill of Rights Institute's national "Being an American Essay Contest" is open to all high school students. Entries must be submitted by Dec. 1. Prizes include cash and a trip to Washington, D.C., to all winning students and their teachers.

The essay should be about exploring the rights and responsibilities of American citizenship.

Supporters include Washington Wizards' Antwan Jamison, country music singer Kenny Rogers and the History Channel. Jamison will attend the awards gala in Washington, D.C., in March. Supreme Court associate justice Clarence Thomas will be the keynote speaker.

The essay contest began in 2006 in three states. This is the first year that students from all 50 states and the District of Columbia are eligible. More than 17,000 students have participated the last two years.

The question that students must answer is "What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American?"

Teachers can submit essays online at www.BeingAnAmerican.org There will be three top prize winners in nine regions. The first place winners in each region and their sponsoring teachers will each receive $5,000 cash awards; second place winners will receive $2,500 and third place winners will receive $1,250. Honorable mention prizes of $250 will be awarded to 63 students, seven from each region.