Monday, July 15, 2024

Winner of National Civics Bee Virginia State Finals Announced

WILLIAMSBURG — Zoey Downer from Joseph T. Henley Middle School in Crozet was named the first-place winner at the 2024 National Civics Bee Virginia State Finals competition hosted by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation on June 8.

Downer advances to the inaugural national finals that will be held on Nov. 12 in Washington, D.C.

“Civic engagement is central to Colonial Williamsburg’s mission,” said Cliff Fleet, president and CEO of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “The students who competed in this Civics Bee remind us of the many ways that the future can learn from the past. My sincere congratulations to Zoey Downer and all the competitors on a job well done.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s National Civics Bee aims to encourage young people to engage in civics and contribute to their communities.

The state-level competition was held at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg in partnership with The Civic Trust of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

According to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, students participated in a live quiz event and answered questions from judges to test their knowledge.

Downer won first place, followed by second-place winner Jayden Allen from Joseph T. Henley Middle School in Crozet and Addie Freund from Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax County, who placed third.

Downer impressed the judges with her knowledge and her essay on new development and rezoning in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, the foundation said. In addition to specifying the problem, Downer presented several diverse solutions for consideration.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Americans’ civics knowledge has fallen significantly in recent years, with more than 70% failing a basic civics literacy quiz. At the same time, 79% of eighth graders score below a level of proficiency.

“Through the National Civics Bee, we aim to reverse this trend, and inspire a new generation of Americans to be civically engaged and active in shaping the future of our communities and our nation,” said Hilary Crow, vice president of civics at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Eight finalists advanced to the State Finals through a local competition held on April 23 at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation’s Jamestown Settlement. The Greater Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce administered the local competition, which determined the participants in the Virginia State Finals.

The judges for this year’s state competition were Nicholas Kent, deputy secretary of education for the Commonwealth of Virginia; Sam Futrell, president of the Virginia Council for the Social Studies; and Caroline Legros, director of education and programs at the John Marshall Center for Constitutional History & Civics. Kurt Smith, who portrays Colonial Williamsburg Nation Builder Thomas Jefferson, served as emcee.

The finalists received cash prizes, including $1,000 for the first place. Downer advances to compete amongst 27 other state winners in the inaugural nationwide competition on Nov. 12 in Washington D.C. For more information on the National Civics Bee, visit

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