For the first time ever, the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce is holding a Civics Bee.

The bee is open to all middle school students, and more than 1,000 students are expected to submit an essay about using civics to solve a problem in their community. The 500-word essay entries are due by 11:59 p.m. Feb. 24.

The Rio Rancho Civics Bee is one of many pilot National Civics Bee competitions promoted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. At least 1,000 local middle school students will participate in a first-round essay competition. Judges will select 20 to go to the final round: a live quiz event testing civics knowledge on April 13 at 6 p.m. at the Rio Rancho Public Schools Training Center. Winners will be recognized in their communities and receive prizes.

“What an opportunity to bring it to Rio Rancho,” Chamber president and CEO Jerry Schalow said. “We have a great school district and great students who are going to do a great job.”

Jerry Schalow

The prizes are $500 for first place, $250 for second and $125 for third. The top three winners will then go on to compete in the state bee, where the prizes are:

• First Place: $1,000 cash prize

• Second Place: $500 cash prize

• Third Place: $250 cash prize

“This is a great opportunity for the kids to learn civics and expand their knowledge in civics,” Schalow said. “It’s an opportunity for kids to understand that what we do impacts the community.”