Sophia George in front of the American National Tree exhibit at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo credit: Mike DeNardo)

Sophia George in front of the American National Tree exhibit at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo credit: Mike DeNardo)

The American National Tree is one of the most popular exhibits at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Each year, students who participated in the Scholastic Awards are invited to submit essays about historical Americans who have helped shape our Constitution. The winning essay is added to the Tree and the author is given a $1,000 Maurice R. Robinson American National Tree Award and a trip to Philadelphia, PA. This year’s winner was Sophia George, a 9th-grader at Culver Academies in Culver, IN, for her essay on Thaddeus Stevens. Congratulations, Sophia!
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From left: Executive Director and CEO of the National Constitution Center, Jeffrey Rosen; American National Tree Award recipient Isabelle Breier; ABC-TV journalist Nydia Han; and Alliance Senior Manager, National Programs, Scott Larner in front of the American National Tree Exhibition.

From left: Executive Director and CEO of the National Constitution Center, Jeffrey Rosen; American National Tree Award recipient Isabelle Breier; ABC-TV journalist Nydia Han; and Alliance Senior Manager, National Programs, Scott Larner in front of the American National Tree Exhibition.

This year’s M.R. Robinson National Constitution Center American National Tree Award invited rising 8th to 12th grade Gold Key recipients to write short biographical essays about 5 American activists, including: Albert Snyder, Edward Schempp, Bayard Rustin, Maya Angelou…and the incredible Nellie Bly!

For their efforts, one student receives a scholarship of $1,000 and an excerpt of their award-winning work is engraved on a brand-new leaf of the Constitution Center’s popular exhibit, the American National Tree.

More than 170 students heeded the call, and a panel from the 2013 National Student Poets Program picked their favorites for the National Constitution Center to review. One particular essay stood head and shoulders above the rest.

About a young female journalist, by a young female journalist, Isabelle Breier’s profile of Nellie Bly was inscribed on a leaf, bound on an historic tree, and celebrated this year on National Constitution Day, September 17 amid fanfare, photo opportunities and naturally, press coverage! Joining Isabelle and her family as a special guest, Philadelphia’s ABC-TV investigative reporter Nydia Han rounded out a trio of inspired and inspiring women writers; Executive Director and CEO of the National Constitution Center and the Alliance’s Senior Manager Scott Larner took part in the festivities as well. Read More

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The American National Tree at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center

From the earliest days in America, words and actions worked together to form this nation—and they continue to shape its future as well as its history today. Nearly two hundred and twenty five years ago, on September 17, 1787, delegates to the Philadelphia Convention signed a pivotal piece of writing that formed the basis of the United States government—the Constitution. Across the nation and in Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center, each September 17 Constitution Day marks that momentous event.

The American National Tree, a popular exhibit at the Constitution Center, tells the stories of 100 Americans whose actions have helped write the story of the Constitution. On September 17, a new story will be added—and you may be its scholarship-winning author!

The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers invites all rising 8th to 12th graders who have earned Gold Keys in The Scholastic Writing Awards to enter the 2014 M.R. Robinson National Constitution Center American National Tree Award. To do so, submit a biographical essay about one of the historically important Americans listed at the bottom of the page.

If your essay is selected,

  • it will be added to the tree on September 17,
  • you will be invited to Philadelphia to see your essay added to the tree, and
  • you will earn a $1,000 scholarship!

To apply for the American National Tree Award, select one of the constitutionally important Americans below and write a 250-500 word biographical essay. Send it no later than July 18, 2014 (or as soon as possible!) to American National Tree Award, The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, 557 Broadway, New York, NY, 10012, or email it to startwritenow@artandwriting.org, subject line: American National Tree Award

Have fun, and good luck! Read More

Sam Duffy (center) at the National Constitution Center, with his dad Christopher (left) and the Alliance’s Senior Manager of National Programs, Scott Larner

2013 Scholastic Awards winner Sam Duffy (center) at the National Constitution Center, with his dad Christopher (left) and the Alliance’s Senior Manager of National Programs, Scott Larner

In 1870, a distinguished gentleman from Mississippi was duly elected to the US Senate. But when he presented his credentials in Washington, he was less than warmly welcomed. Why? Less than 5 years after the end of the Civil War, Hiram Rhodes Revels was the 1st African-American to serve in this post!

On September 17, 2013, Revels made history again by becoming a high-tech “leaf” on National Constitution Center’s popular exhibit, The American National Tree. The 15-year-old young man who wrote an essay to honor him, Sam Duffy (2013 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Gold Key winner), chose him precisely because of the obstacles Revels faced:

“It is fitting that Senator Revels is recognized here at the U.S. Constitution Center, because when Hiram Revels was being proposed as the first African American senator of the United States, his opponents challenged his capacity by making constitutional arguments about his citizenship because of his race. I was born in New York City in 1998, and I have boundless freedoms as a native-born American citizen, but when my great uncle John Kim was a graduate student in Missouri in the 1950s, he was not allowed to go into restaurants, hotels and bathrooms because he was not white.” Read More

Left to right: Vince Stango, COO of the National Constitution Center; Carter Jimenez-Jenkins; Rebecca Rutherfurd, Sr. Manager of National Programs at the Alliance

Last week was a busy week for Carter Jimenez-Jenkins. But it’s always a busy week, it seems.

On Monday, September 17, he and his mom flew to Philadelphia to celebrate the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution at the National Constitution Center. He is patriotic, but that’s not why he attended the special ceremony commemorating the addition of an essay about influential American and former first lady Betty Ford to the American National Tree exhibit. Carter flew from coast-to-coast because he wrote the essay about Ms. Ford, which earned him a $1,000 scholarship and the 2012 M.R. Robinson National Constitution Center American National Tree Award! You can read the essay here.

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The American National Tree at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia

As every writer and reader knows, words have power: to express important ideas, beliefs and feelings; to explain the world; even to create a nation. Nearly two hundred and twenty five years ago, on September 17, 1787, delegates to the Philadelphia Convention signed a pivotal piece of writing that formed the basis of our nation—the Constitution. Across the nation and in Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center, each September 17 Constitution Day marks that momentous event.

The American National Tree, a popular exhibit at the Constitution Center, tells the stories of 100 Americans whose actions have helped write the story of the Constitution. On September 17, a new story will be added—and you may be its scholarship-winning author!

The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers invites all 9th, 10th, and 11th graders who have earned Gold Keys in The Scholastic Writing Awards to enter the 2012 M.R. Robinson National Constitution Center American National Tree Award. To do so, submit a biographical essay about one of the historically important Americans listed at the bottom of the page. Read More