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Local Middle School Students Compete at State Qualifying Round in Vancouver for the Title of National Civics Bee Champion

Photo: Association of Washington Business


This competition drew submissions from nearly 100 essays from middle school students across the state during the first round, where 20 finalists were selected to compete in a live event to showcase civics knowledge. 

The National Civics Bee was launched to tackle the lack of knowledge about history and civics among middle school students, exposed by new federal data on the Nation's Report Card. 

Vancouver, WAThe Greater Vancouver Chamber (GVC) proudly announced the winners of the state qualifying round of the National Civics Bee, a prestigious academic competition that tests students' knowledge of civics and government. Twenty middle school student finalists from Battle Ground, Vancouver, Hockinson, Chehalis, some homeschooled and from private schools participated in this competition, where Benjamin Wu, 7th grader, won the title of Southwest Washington’s Civics Bee Champion and a cash prize of $500.  

Out of nearly 100 essays submitted by 6th, 7th, and 8th graders from around the state, judges from across the nation selected 20 finalists who were invited to compete on April 22nd at the Providence Academy. This event, organized in partnership with The Civic Trust of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and supported by Career Connect Southwest – ESD 112, brought together bright young minds from schools across the region, showcasing their exceptional grasp of civics principles and government functions. 

The first round of the competition was a set of carefully crafted questions covering a wide range of topics including U.S. government, history, politics, constitutional law, and more, making it a challenging and engaging event that tested the participants' understanding of the foundations of our democratic society. Contestants used individual computers to answer the timed questions. Parents and guests were also invited to play along on their phones from the audience in a separate competition for a $50 Grow The 360 gift certificate to spend with Clark County merchants. Lewis County Deputy Auditor Tom Stanton, father of one of the finalists, won that competition.  

The students with the top five scores were then interviewed on stage by a panel of local mayors, featuring Steve Hogan from the City of Camas, Mayor & City Councilmember David Stuebe from Washougal, WA, and Mayor Phillip Johnson from Battle Ground, WA, who served as judges. The finalists discussed their essay topics (on their proposals to address a community issue of their choice, such as homelessness, historic preservation, technology accessibility), then answered questions from the mayors. The judges' scores were tallied, and three winners were announced, who all received cash prizes. All three mayors were impressed with the students’ performance and honored to be part of this event and hear about potential solutions to societal problems.  

The top three winners demonstrated exceptional knowledge and understanding of the United States Constitution, government structure, current events, and other civic topics, in addition to an incredible awareness of current society issues. Those three winners, along with the seven other top finishers in the quiz part of the competition, will go on to the state Civics Bee event, brought to you by the Association of Washington Business on June 1st at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA.   

The ten finalists of the National Civics Bee are as follows: 

  • Benjamin Wu, Narrows View Intermediate, Tacoma/University Place School District 
  • Lorelai Wilde, Chief Umtuch Middle School, Battle Ground Public Schools  
  • Devin Spector-Van Zee, home-schooled in Vancouver 
  • Eliana RossRodriguez, George Washington Bush Middle School, Tumwater School District 
  • Olivia Cherrington, Chehalis Middle School, Chehalis School District  
  • Ye Joon Ameling, Vancouver Itech Preparatory, Vancouver Public Schools  
  • Addison Juhnke, Laurin Middle School, Battle Ground Public Schools  
  • Brady Bruz Taylor, Chehalis Middle School, Chehalis School District  
  • Oliver Stanton, Chehalis Middle School, Chehalis School District  
  • Kenya Merrick, Laurin Middle School, Battle Ground Public Schools  

“The National Civics Bee means to me that I can be a driving force for change not only for my community but for the long-lasting history of the U.S. and surrounding cultures,” said Devin Spector-Van Zee, one of the participants and 3rd place winner of the state qualifying round.  

The National Civics Bee is part of the Greater Vancouver Chamber's commitment to promoting civic education and fostering civic engagement among young students and professionals alike. The event serves as a platform for students to expand their knowledge of civics and develop critical thinking, communication, and leadership skills. 

“We were delighted to see the enthusiasm and engagement displayed by our talented middle schoolers during the Civics Bee as well as the thoughtful essays submitted for entry,” said John McDonagh, President and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Chamber. “At the Chamber, we firmly believe that by nurturing and actively involving the youth of Southwest Washington in civic matters, we are making a strategic investment in the emerging leaders who will propel our community towards sustained growth and opportunities.” 

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation President Carolyn Cawley, this competition was launched last year to tackle the lack of knowledge about history and civics among middle school students, exposed by new federal data on the Nation's Report CardIn 2022, the average civics score at eighth grade decreased by 2 points compared to 2018. 

"A strong economy is built on the foundation of informed citizens. Schools cannot do this work alone. Businesses of all sizes can help bridge the civics gap. We invite companies to join us and invest in educational programs for employees, partner with local schools, and support community learning initiatives like the National Civics Bee,” mentioned Cawley. “This crisis endangers our democracy, and we demand immediate action.” 

The public is invited to the state final Civics Bee competition. Learn more at: 

For more information about the National Civics Bee, please visit 

Business leaders interested in sponsoring this event next year, can email the Greater Vancouver Chamber at    

About the National Civics Bee

The National Civics Bee is an annual competition that encourages young Americans to engage in civics and contribute to their communities. In the first round of the contest, local middle school students participate in an essay competition. Judges will then select 20 finalists to participate in our local competition: a live quiz event testing civics knowledge. The top three students from each local competition will advance to the state competition. 

About the Greater Vancouver Chamber

SW Washington’s largest business organization, the Greater Vancouver Chamber (GVC), with nearly 1000 members, has been Moving Business Forward in southwest Washington for over 130 years through business advocacy, community building, education, and creating visibility for our members. The Chamber is a supportive alliance of diverse member businesses, individuals, and organizations, working together toward long-term business prosperity. The GVC is the heart of Clark County’s business community, advocating for sound, sensible and dynamic policies that ensure a vital economic climate and prosperity for all. For more information, please visit   

Event Contact:  
Janet Kenefsky, Greater Vancouver Chamber

Media Assets: (Photo Credit: Association of Washington Business)

Official Event Link:
2023 National Civics Bee

Washington State Civics Bee Competition:

Nation’s Report Card:
NAEP Report Card: 2022 NAEP Civics Assessment

Press Release Contact

Portrait of Lourdes Salmonte-Garcia

Lourdes Salmonte-Garcia
Marketing & Communications Specialist

Phone: 360.567.1058
Email Lourdes

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