The 17th Annual Pennsylvania Citizen Bee was held Thursday evening at the Carbon County Courthouse in Jim Thorpe.

The Citizen Bee tests students' knowledge of U.S. history, economics, geography, Pennsylvania history, local/regional history and current events. Four students out of 25 competing walked away with top prizes.

First place winner was Panther Valley High School senior Jason Gates. Last year he competed in the Citizen Bee and placed third. Gates plans to attend Dickinson College for economics.

Second place winner was Northern Lehigh High School senior Michael Hofmann. This year was Hofmann's first Citizen Bee. He plans to attend Moravian College for secondary education mathematics.

Third place winner was Tamaqua Area High School senior Schuyler Schmidt. This was Schmidt's second year competing in the Citizen Bee. She plans to attend the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada for kinesiology and nutrition.

Fourth place winner was Palmerton Area High School senior Brent Green. Green also competed in last year's Citizen Bee. He plans to attend Lehigh Carbon Community College for criminal justice.

Gates received the first place prize, a check for $300. Hofmann received the second place prize, a check for $200. Schmidt and Green received the third and fourth place prizes, a check for $100.

The competition is comprised of a 30-minute written exam. Then the students partake in an oral competition that lasts five rounds. The scores are then tallied from both the written exam and oral competition.

"The Times News Annual Citizen Bee is a wonderful opportunity for these young people," stated oral competition moderator, Maureen Donovan of Lehigh Carbon Community College.

"Through the knowledge they gain preparing for the Citizen Bee they are prepared to be active participants in America's future," she said.

The students prepared by watching DVD's of previous competitions, by studying the different types of questions and quizzing each other.

The Citizen Bee has been sponsored by the TIMES NEWS for the past 17 years. Throughout its duration it has been coordinated by George Taylor, the editor of the Bethlehem Press, a weekly newspaper published by the TIMES NEWS' Lehigh Valley Press group.

"The Citizen Bee went very well," Taylor said, "and it's a great event for a newspaper to sponsor."

"Newspapers provide the first draft of history," he added. "Newspapers are a living textbook."

Taylor also wanted the newspaper staff members and school advisers who contribute their time to make the competition happen.

Students and advisers from nine area schools participated in the Citizen Bee:

Carbon Career and Technical Institute – Brandon Poole, Nicole Henry and adviser Michael Baumgardt;

Jim Thorpe Area High School – James Denny, Kayla Susko, Bronson Ford, alternate Liam Kelly and adviser Shelley Miller;

Lehighton Area High School – Peter Petrack, Noah Tkach and adviser Mike Feifel;

Marian Catholic High School – Andrew Kelly, Connor Schleicher, Tim Miller, alternate Mike McHale and adviser Bernard Forgotch;

Northern Lehigh High School – Jonathan Haab, H. Vaughn Reese, Michael Hofmann, alternate Kyle Baumann and adviser Scott DeLong;

Palmerton Area High School – Andrew McReynolds, Blake Campbell, Brent Green and adviser Paul McArdle;

Panther Valley High School – Jason Gates, John Owens, Jacob Dulaney and co-advisors Timothy Grazio and Frank Damian;

Tamaqua Area High School – Schuyler Schmidt, Tyler Butkus, Kyle Cunningham and adviser Stephen Ulicny; and

Weatherly Area High School – Sarah Dolinsky, Matthew Caccese, Eli Suveg and adviser Katie Leach.

The monitors and graders for the written exam were Mary Ruth Taylor, Tamaqua Area High School; Joseph Riccette, Tamaqua Area High School, retired; and Jeff James, Jim Thorpe Area School District, retired.

The judges for the oral competition were District Judge Edward Lewis, Carbob County District Court Administrator Roberta Brewster, and Carbon County Commissioner Bill O'Gurek.

The appeals judge was District Judge Steve Bayer. Donovan was the moderator. Announcer and scorekeeper was Amy Miller of the TIMES NEWS. Timekeeper was state Rep. of the 124th District, Jerry Knowles.

The Citizen Bee was recorded and will air on Blue Ridge Cable TV13 on Friday, May 6 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, May 7 at 6:30 p.m.; and Sunday, May 8 at 1 p.m.

The program will also be available on Demand by Monday, May 9, and can be found under the "Free On Demand" section using your digital cable remote (option 8). Just click on TV13 and then "Events."

There will also be a Citizen Bee slideshow on YouTube by the end of the day. Just search for the following key words or phrases: Times News Citizen Bee, Pa. Citizen Bee, or Citizen Bee.