The Aztec Public Library and the San Juan Masonic Lodge No. 25 have teamed up to offer Aztec and Bloomfield high school seniors the chance to earn a $1,000 Freedom Philosophy scholarship.
The contest is the brainchild of Angela Watkins, program director for the library. The Masons will provide the college-tuition money, available in two allotments of $500 each.
"Students who participate will learn how the political process affects them today and how it will 20 years from now when they start families, become homeowners and have careers," Watkins said. "They will have to do the legwork, but the library will provide the resources."
Each applicant will be asked to research the Constitution, interview city officials and create a 5 to 7 minute video that demonstrates an understanding of government and free market principles, Watkins said.
After completing an application, the scholarship hopefuls must attend a San Juan County meeting and an Aztec Commission or Bloomfield Council meeting and interview an official about his or her political philosophy. The seniors will also study the Constitution and the history of the founding fathers' roles, with research on the three branches of government. They will also present their idea at a Masonic Lodge meeting.
"The goal is to give them an active understanding of both federal and local governments and how each operates," Watkins said. "They will emerge — all participants, win or lose — prepped for the real world, with a deeper understanding of their rights and roles in it."
To create a video, students will need to pay $5 for an annual digital technology membership at the library and work exclusively on their projects on the library's high-end computers. Membership also enters a student's name into a drawing the third week in April during National Library Week for a $50 Best Buy gift card, Watkins said.
"We were really excited by Angela's idea to use technology as part of the project to engage the civic consciousness of students," said Mason Past Master Eddie Chavez. "The founding fathers of our country were Masons, practicing the values and tenets we uphold today, living a noble life with purpose, having a working understanding of the Constitution, helping the oppressed and serving your community."
As part of its outreach to local youth, the Aztec Masons offer roughly six $1,000 scholarships each year.
While an essay-writing contest drew a lukewarm response, Chavez is hopeful that incorporating digital technology, as well as face-to-face interactions with government officials and Masons, will entice more students to apply for the scholarship.
"We all see the need for character and community service today," Chavez said. "With this scholarship contest, we want to promote doing the right thing, even when nobody's looking, and to encourage our youth to be active in the community and politically aware, not just Googling about it."
James Fenton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4621. Follow him on Twitter @fentondt.
Join the contest
What: San Juan Lodge No. 25 and Aztec Public Library college scholarship contest When: Deadline for entries is 5 p.m., Wednesday, May 1 Where: Aztec Public Library, 319 S. Ash St. Cost: $5 digital technology membership fee More info: Call the Aztec Public Library at 505-334-7657 or go to www.azteclibrary.org or sanjuanlodge25.com.
What: San Juan Lodge No. 25 and Aztec Public Library college scholarship contest
When: Deadline for entries is 5 p.m., Wednesday, May 1
Where: Aztec Public Library, 319 S. Ash St.
Cost: $5 digital technology membership fee
More info: Call the Aztec Public Library at 505-334-7657 or go to www.azteclibrary.org or sanjuanlodge25.com.