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Citizenship Challenge

Take a sneak peek at our annual essay contest where students tackle tough issues facing our democracy

mck_3ruSince 2014, The Rendell Center’s Citizenship Challenge has taken place in Philadelphia. It is a unique opportunity for 4 and 5th grade classes in the 5-county Philadelphia area to express themselves by answering a civics essay question regarding a current issue facing our democracy. In 2018, the Citizenship Challenge extended to the greater Pittsburgh area with its own unique essay question.

Classroom teams are asked to write an essay that addresses their point of view on the assigned issue. Teams take one position and defend their argument in a concise written document of a minimum of 300 words. The contest is drawn from PA Civics standards relating to principles and documents of government; rights and responsibilities of citizens; and information on how government works.

From all entries submitted ten finalists are selected and invited to make a final presentation of their essay during Bill of Rights Week each December. All expenses are paid by The Rendell Center.

In addition to the Citizenship Challenge, we also provide debates and forums for school students to engage and participate in the democratic process.

See for yourself

Get a real sense of everything the Citizenship Challenge provides. Watch our latest civics competitions.

2018 Philadelphia Citizenship Challenge on PCN TV

The Philadelphia winners were:

  • First place: Anne Frank Elementary School, Philadelphia. Christine Delesandro’s 5th grade class.
  • Second place: Buckingham Elementary School, Central Bucks School District. Linda Raitt’s 5th grade class.
  • Third place (tie): Merion Elementary School, Lower Merion School District. Ann Friedlander’s 5th grade class
    Radnor Elementary School, Radnor Township School District. Todd Serpico’s 5th grade class.

2018 Pittsburgh Citizenship Challenge on PCN TV

The Pittsburgh winners were:

  • First place: Kentucky Avenue School, Shadyside. Roberta Kardell’s 5th grade class.
  • Second place: Shaler Area Elementary School, Shaler Area School District. Darla Gerlach’s 5th grade class.
  • Third place: Pittsburgh Linden School, Point Breeze. Tamika Thomas’s 5th grade class.

Annual Prizes

  • 1 GRAND PRIZE of $1,000: The first place school will receive a check to be used toward a program that promotes civics learning and engagement across the student body.
  • 3 RUNNER-UP PRIZES of $500: Each of the three runner-up schools will receive a check to be used toward a program that promotes civics learning and engagement across the student body.
  • TOP ENTRIES: The top finalist schools will receive classroom copies of the Literature-Based Mock Trial curriculum as well as a civics library for their school.
Elementary students put on plays to demonstrate the points in their essays.

Citizenship challenge finalists bring their essays to life!

The experience of competing in The Citizenship Challenge was incredible and so much fun…we worked hard, but it definitely paid off. It was really interesting to hear what other people in my class had to say about the Fourth Amendment. I thought being able to see what all the other schools had to say was also interesting… Voting like we were adults made me feel mature!  — Katrina Talag, Student

Writing the essay and making the video was super fun. Laughing at our mistakes, remembering my line, pretending to really be on a talk show…it was awesome!  — Sammy Matteib, Student

The Challenge was a life-changing experience for me to see how high expectations can yield unbelievable student learning and impact. I do believe that working with The Rendell Center will continue to assist me in my endeavor to be a better teacher than I was yesterday.  — Lisa Yau, Philadelphia SD, Teacher