The center is sponsoring an essay contest for students in grades 9 through 12 to encourage them to “think critically about the United States and its political and constitutional inheritance,” said director Gary Gregg.

Prize money totaling $900 will be split among the three students who write the best 1,000-word essays about the roots of U.S. government or its reform, Gregg said.

Essays can focus on a political mover-and-shaker such as George Washington, examine a reform such as Congressional term limits or explore how one of five “root” cities that shaped the United States—Jerusalem, Rome, Athens, London and Philadelphia—still influence the country today.

The deadline for submitting essays is April 15.

The nonpartisan McConnell Center, created at UofL in 1991, prepares Kentucky’s top college undergraduate students to become future leaders and offers civic education programs for teachers, students and the general public.