Well, there goes her amateur standing.

Lincoln Middle School seventh grader Auburn Eichers won the first regional civics bee, held in the Rio Rancho Public Schools administration building, the evening of April 20 and pocketed – no, see the size of that check — $500.

Seventeen middle school students showed up for the competition, with the top 10 qualifying to advance to the state civics bee in Albuquerque on Aug. 19. The top three won cash, including Auburn, the daughter of Robert and Kaitlyn Eichers of Rio Rancho, who was handed one of those giant checks for $500. Runner-up Victoria Miller received $250 and third-place finisher Jose Luis Zavala made $125.

From left, Victoria Miller (runner-up), Michael Magee (fourth place), Auburn Eichers (winner), Jose Luis Zavala (third) and Nicholas Molina (fifth). (Gary Herron/Observer)

The Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce sponsored the regional competition, which attracted students from Roswell, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Farmington, as well as the City of Vision.

The goal is to encourage more young Americans to engage in civics and contribute to their communities. Organized in partnership with The Civic Trust of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the competition will hopefully inspire middle schoolers to become better informed about American democracy, to engage respectfully and constructively in the community and to build greater trust in others and institutions.  

It’s really about being a good citizen,” is how New Mexico State Sen. Craig Brandt put it, speaking to the gathering before the 20 multiple-choice questions phase began.

Examples of the questions are “What region of the U.S. has more Democrats than Republicans?” “What is the role of the president in American foreign policy?” Other questions dealt with the U.S. Constitution.

The beginning portion of the bee had been to write 500-word essays.

This is a great opportunity for our middle school youth to discover the importance of civics and how they can make a positive impact on our community with a better understanding of civics,” said Jerry Schalow, president and CEO of the RRRCC. He read the questions aloud for the students; after the results were figured out, the top five – nobody got more than 15 answers correct – took turns describing their essays to a panel of five judges, who then asked the students a few questions to help them evaluate the essays and their answers to determine a winner.

Auburn seemingly had all the right answers as she answered the judges’ queries; her essay had been about sexual violence in the U.S., the awareness of it and the lack of punishment for most offenders, for which she presented statistics.

Other essay topics of the top five were on small business; the lack of malls in a city and what to do about it; homelessness; and a plea to eliminate bullying.

Happy with the way the bee went, Schalow said the chamber will continue to participate in regional civics bees in the future.