Students invited to enter the Constitutional Essay Contest
Contact: Office of Public Affairs 665-2741
Posted: 03/14/2013
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Thanks to a continuing and generous donation from Dr. and Mrs. Lawrence Richard Gelman, The University of Texas-Pan American and the Pan American Collaboration for Ethics (PACE) in the Professions announce this year's essay contest for entry into the Gelman Constitutional Scholars (GCS) 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 2012 semester).

To apply for the program, applicants must submit an essay to the Constitutional Essay Contest (entry dates for this academic year are March 1-April 1, 2013). Finalists will be invited to the UTPA campus to discuss and defend their essays and answer questions on the Constitution. The 20 selected Gelman Constitutional Scholars will be inducted at a banquet in May 2013.

The GCS Program selects 10-20 scholars a year to participate in the intensive study of the Constitution and its philosophical, moral, and historical significance and current implications. This year the top essayist will receive $5,000, an iPad Mini, and a course on ethics and the Constitution. The remaining scholars chosen will each receive $2,000, an iPad Mini, and a course on ethics and the Constitution. In addition, the program participants 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 and coordinator for the GCS Program. "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 for the government."

Student essays must be original and between 1,250 to 1,500 words. Essays must be submitted no later than April 1, and address the topic and target the central question. In previous years the essay questions focused on the issues of mutability of the Bill of Rights and the debate over states' rights vs. federal rights. This year's question focuses on the 16th Amendment and taxation.

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 2013. 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 the values the Constitution embodies and the moral principles and philosophical debates that framed the Constitution, 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 and find more information at the GCS program's website. For additional information, contact Jones at