NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 4, 2011) -- Ashlee Smith, 17, a junior at Lyon County High School, Ky., and daughter of Troy Smith an Electrician with the U.S. Army of Engineers from the Lake Barkley Power Plant, won $5,000 and captured top honors representing the Mid-South region at the Bill of Rights Institute's Being an American Essay Contest Awards Gala Celebration on March 22, 2011 in Washington, D.C.
The Bill of Rights Institute's Being an American Essay Contest is one of America’s largest high school essay contests and calls upon students to think about the greatest civic values in America. By encouraging students to consider and weigh American values, and by promoting free speech and civility, the Essay Contest serves as a key part of the Bill of Rights Institute's mission to educate young people about the words and ideas of America's Founders, the liberties guaranteed in our Founding documents, and how our Founding principles continue to affect and shape a free society.
“I was totally taken by surprise when they called my name at the gala,” said Smith. “It is a great feeling to win and be a part this contest.”
Students were asked to write an essay as a response to the question: “What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American? Trace the enduring importance of this value throughout the American story by discussing: a Founding document that reflects this value; a figure from American history who embodies this value; and examples of how you have and/or could put this value into practice.”
Smith says she is an aspiring attorney and chose justice as her civic value and Thomas Jefferson as an American who most embodied this value. “In essence, without a fair justice system, our country would crumble,” she wrote. “The importance of justice can be seen through the enduring actions of men like Thomas Jefferson, and the positive impacts of Founding documents such as the Bill of Rights.”
The national competition is sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute, which was established in 1999, the Institute is a non- profit charity, focused on providing educational resources on America's Founding documents and principles for teachers and students of American History and Civics. In addition to the cash prize, Lyon County High School History teacher Heather Simmons also won a matching cash prize and Ashlee and her father, Troy Smith received an all-expense paid trip to the awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Smith was honored at an awards gala where Keynote speakers and national journalists’ John Stossel and Juan Williams thanked awardees and stressed the importance to pursue their dreams and continue to contribute to society. The trip also included attending a luncheon on U.S. Capitol and attending free tours of the U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court, and National Archive museum.
Heather Simmons, Smith’s History teacher, urged her to enter the essay contest because of strong writing ability. Smith says she was inspired by her interest in learning more about the law and wishes to attend the Yale or Harvard University and pursue Law in college.
According to the website, the mission and vision of the Bill of Rights Institute is to educate young people, create a citizenry that has knowledge, value, dispositions, skills about the words and idea's of America's Founders, the liberties guaranteed in Founding documents, and how Founding principles continue to affect and shape a free society to exercise the rights and responsibilities needed to maintain a free society. More than 24,000 students from across the country participated in the contest. For more information visit: http://www.BillofRightsInstitute.org.