Nine area schools are sending participants to the 17th annual Pa. Citizen Bee Thursday at the Carbon County Courthouse.

The Citizen Bee is an educational outreach program sponsored by The Times News.

The competition tests participants' knowledge of U.S. history, economics, government, Pa. studies, local history and current events.

Citizen Bee contestants participate individually, first completing a 30-minute written exam followed by five rounds of oral questions. Cash prizes of $300, $200, $100 and $100 will be presented.

At one time, the Citizen Bee involved local, state and national competitions. When the national and state competitions disappeared, Times News publisher Fred Masenheimer decided to continue the local competition.

Each school is allowed three contestants and one alternate who may participate if one of the other three cannot attend.

Schools participating this year are Carbon Career & Technical Institute, Jim Thorpe, Marian Catholic, Northern Lehigh, Palmerton, Lehighton, Panther Valley, Tamaqua and Weatherly.

Zach Werner from Lehighton HS placed first last year; Oliver Schultz from Jim Thorpe HS, second; Jason Gates from Panther Valley HS, third; and Christian Ferko from Jim Thorpe HS, fourth.

The public is invited to attend. The oral round of questions generally begins around 7:15 p.m. Registration begins at 6 p.m. The written exam begins at 6:30.

Assisting with this year's Citizen Bee are Mary Ruth Taylor, Jeff James and Joseph Riccette, written exam proctors; District Judge Edward Lewis, Carbon County Court Administrator Roberta Brewster, Carbon County Commissioner Bill O'Gurek, judges; District Judge Steve Bayer, appeals judge; state Rep. Jerry Knowles, timekeeper; Maureen Donovan, moderator; and Amy Miller, scorekeeper.

The local Citizen Bee is coordinated by George Taylor, editor of the Bethlehem Press, a weekly newspaper published by the Times News' Lehigh Valley Press newspaper group.

Editor's note: No useable photo was available from Northern Lehigh HS. Northern Lehigh's team members are, junior Kyle Baumann, senior Jonathan Haab, sophomore Michael Hofmann and junior H. Vaughn Reese. Scott DeLong is the team's moderator.