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Students shine in first-ever Kansas middle-school civics bee

by | May 10, 2024 | Newsroom

Students shine in first-ever Kansas middle-school civics bee

The Kansas State Finals of the National Civics Bee featured 11 middle school student finalists from four local competitions hosted by participating chambers in Hutchinson, Overland Park, Pittsburg and Wichita.


Rishaan Panchal, a sixth-grader at Lakewood Middle School in Overland Park, will represent Kansas in the National Civics Bee after winning the state’s first-ever finals Thursday at the Kansas Leadership Center in Wichita.

Panchal earned a $1,000 prize after his presentation about making health care more accessible. Pranjal Adhikari, an eighth-grader at Lakewood Middle School, placed second following a presentation about improving mental health in his commmunity and state. He took home a $500 prize. Caleb Bonnema, a seventh-grader at Blue Valley Middle School, presented his ideas for addressing antisemitism and received a $250 prize.

Caleb Bonnema, Rishaan Panchal and Pranjal Adhikari, left to right, were the top three finishers. First prize-winner Rishaan will represent Kansas at the National Civics Bee in November. Credit: Julian Montes

The three middle-school students were among the 11 contestants competing at the Kansas State Finals of the National Civics Bee, which involved KLC, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, four chambers of commerce across Kansas, and Fidelity Bank.

The contestants advanced to the finals through four local competitions hosted by chambers of commerce in Hutchinson, Overland Park, Pittsburg and Wichita.

Students participated in two rounds of multiple-choice questions ranging in difficulty from 6th to 8th-grade level civics questions. For the third round, six finalists delivered a three-minute presentation on an essay they submitted to demonstrate their enthusiasm for civics by sharing an idea for improving their community. Students responded in real time to questions about their essay from a panel of live judges.

“As my grandmother would say, my heart is big tonight,” says Kaye Monk-Morgan, president and CEO of the Kansas Leadership Center. “Congratulations to the students who took home prizes, but to me, every student here is a winner. Each has demonstrated both civic knowledge and a passion to serve and benefit their communities.

“We believe that informed and active citizens make for more innovative and connected communities, which means a strong democracy, a strong economy, and a strong workforce, and that our continued prosperity depends on the strength of all three. Through the Bee, the Kansas Leadership Center fosters greater civic knowledge throughout Kansas and celebrates our civic pride,” said Monk-Morgan.

“I am overjoyed after experiencing the youth who represent the State of Kansas,” said LaShonda Garnes, SVP, CDE® and director of inclusion, equity and diversity at Fidelity Bank, the event sponsor. “The hope they inspired and the civic forethought they shared was nothing short of amazing. The event was truly a great reminder of why engaging and supporting our youth is so critical.”

The State Finals included a half day of special programming sponsored by Fidelity Bank that explored “Our Place in Democracy.” The pre-competition program included a keynote from David Adkins, former Kansas legislator and current executive director and CEO of the Council of State Governments, a group conversation facilitated by KLC staff on the part we all play in shaping the civic health of our communities, and exhibitor booths from community-based organizations sharing ways to get involved in civic life.

Learn more about the Kansas State Finals of the National Civics Bee

About the Kansas Leadership Center

The Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) is a first-of-its-kind nonprofit educational organization with a civic mission, national reputation and global reach. Founded in 2007 to foster leadership for stronger, healthier and more prosperous Kansas communities, KLC receives core funding from the Kansas Health Foundation (a private, philanthropic organization). It partners with nonprofit organizations, government agencies, educational institutions, businesses and communities to build cultures that are healthy, productive and well-positioned to make measurable progress on daunting challenges and emergent opportunities. KLC Press publishes leadership books and The Journal, a nationally recognized, award-winning civic issues magazine.

Over the past 16 years, KLC has built a strong and respected institution in Kansas designed to deliver leadership development and culture change at unparalleled scale. Now, organizations across the country and around the world look to us to provide resources and consultation to support their own aspirations for mission-driven leadership education. Learn more at

Carrie Lindeman
[email protected]



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