MOUNT CARMEL - Mount Carmel Elks Lodge 356 reminds parents and students of the Mount Carmel Area, Shamokin Area and Lourdes Regional school districts that deadlines are approaching for several programs.

The first is the Most Valuable Student Scholarship contest. Through this competition, the Elks National Foundation will lessen the cost of college tuition for 500 deserving students ranging from $1,000 a year to $15,000 a year for the 2012-2013 through 2015-2016 academic years. The top 18 winners will receive scholarships ranging from $8,000 to $60,000 while the remaining 482 runners-up receive $4,000 scholarships.

All scholarships are in the form of certificates of award conditional upon the full-time enrollment of the winner in an accredited U.S. college or university.

Males and females compete separately and are judged on scholarship, leadership and financial need. Leadership scores are based on the student's employment, community service, honors and awards, positions of leadership, extracurricular activities and an essay.

Most Valuable Student scholarships are available to high school seniors only. Applicants do not need to be related to a member of the Elks. Applications for this contest can also be found at the student's guidance counselor's office or at www.elks.org/enf/scholars. Deadline for submissions is Dec. 2.

The second is the Americanism Essay Contest. The theme selected for this year is "Why I am proud to pledge allegiance to our flag." Eligible participants must be a student enrolled in the fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth grade during the 2011-2012 school year. Essays must be submitted to the local lodge by Jan. 10.

There are two divisions for judging the essays: Division 1 (combined fifth and sixth grades) and Division 2 (combined seventh and eighth grades). National prizes for first, second and third place winners in each division are as follows: first place, $1,000 U.S. Savings Bond; second place, $500 U.S. Savings Bond; third place, $250 U.S. Savings Bond.

The Elks also offers the Legacy Awards scholarship program where any child or grandchild of a living member is eligible to apply. The applicant must be a high school senior. Legacy Awards are $4,000 scholarships ($1,000 per year for four years) and a total of 250 will be awarded nationwide by the Elks National Foundation this school year. Six winners will be selected from Pennsylvania. This program's submission deadline is Feb. 1.

The drug awareness committee has two contests ongoing at this time. They were both created to help educate children on the dangers of illegal drugs.

The contest is open to children in grades 3, 4 and 5. They are to draw a 12-by-24-inch poster using the theme "Drug Free - That's Me." No trademark characters are allowed. Judging will be based on closeness to the theme, neatness, originality and correct title, which must be included. All posters must be turned in to the Mount Carmel Elks Lodge by Jan. 15.

The Essay Contest is open to all students in grades 6, 7 and 8. They are to write an essay of up to 200 words using the same theme: "Drug Free - That's Me." The essays must be legibly hand written on 8.5-by-11-inch paper, and will be judges based on closeness to the theme, neatness, originality and grammatical structure.

All essays must be received by the lodge by Jan. 15.

For more information on any of these programs, visit www.paelks.com and look in the lower left hand corner of the home page. Or, contact Ricky Schnee, exalted ruler of Mount Carmel lodge, at 339-2856.