Enter the Constitutional Essay Contest today
Contact: PACE
Posted: 12/16/2011
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The University of Texas-Pan American and the Pan American Collaboration for Ethics in the Professions have received a generous donation from Dr. and Mrs. Lawrence Richard Gelman, M.D., president of McAllen Anesthesia Consultants and CEO of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, for the creation of the Gelman Constitutional Scholars Program.

The goal of the GCS Program is to engage South Texas youth in the serious study of and discussions about the U.S. Constitution and its foundations and contemporary implications.

To be considered for admission to the program, applicants must be a junior or senior in high school in the Region One ESC area (home school and private school students are also welcome to apply) or a UTPA student (with 60 or fewer credit hours during the Fall 2011 semester).

To apply for program, applicants must submit an essay to the Constitutional Essay Contest (entry dates for this academic year are Dec. 1, 2011 - Feb. 15, 2012). Finalists will be invited to the UTPA campus and asked to discuss and defend their essay and answer questions on the Constitution. The 10 selected Gelman Constitutional Scholars will be inducted at a banquet in April 2012. The Constitutional Essay Contest, initiated in 2010 through PACE, was also funded with a generous contribution from the Gelmans.

The Gelman Constitutional Scholars Program will select 10 scholars a year to participate in the intensive study of the Constitution and its philosophical and historical significance, and current implications. Each GCS will receive a tablet computer, a laptop computer, a $4,000 UTPA scholarship, and tuition for a course on ethics and the Constitution. In addition, the program will reach out to area public school students and use social networking to discuss the Constitution.

"We are interested in engaging students with the Constitution and the principles upon which our country is based," said Dr. Cynthia Jones, PACE director. "We want them to learn that the Constitution is more than just a legal document - it also makes moral claims about rights and stipulates responsibilities for citizens and the government."

Student essays must be original and a minimum of 1,000 to a maximum of 1,250 words. Essays must be submitted no later than Feb. 15, and address the topic and target the central question:

The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Federal courts have routinely overturned state decisions on issues such as immigration and abortion. Mandates like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and interventions from bodies like the EPA, EEOC, and Department of Education consistently position the federal government to be in power over the states without explicit amendments to the Constitution. Are Supreme Court decisions that support such interventions and mandates Constitutional? Give examples to show why or why not.

A panel of three UTPA professors and two local legal professionals will judge the essays and select the top 15-20 finalists. Students who are notified must be prepared to defend their essays to the panel of judges and answer questions on the U.S. Constitution in March 2012. Based on their essays and answers, the top 10 finalists will be invited to the awards banquet in April where they will be recognized in the presence of University officials, the scholarship sponsor and their families.

"In addition to encouraging students to think carefully about what values the Constitution embodies, we want to encourage students to attend UTPA to broaden their knowledge and understanding of contemporary debates, like those surrounding the reading of the Constitution," Jones said.

Students can submit their essays at the GCS program's website.

For more information, contact Dr. Cynthia Jones at