On Constitution Day (September 17), the Federal Court Bar Association announced the winners of its Eighth Annual Constitution Contest.
Twenty-three high school students from the Northern District entered this year’s contest, which offered only one category: video performances of recitations, speeches and songs shorter than 10 minutes in duration that have been uploaded to the social media platforms YouTube or Instagram Reels.
All entries were required to address one of the following four topics: (1) how the framers of the Constitution tried to make federal court judges independent (e.g., from the influence of the other branches of government, as well as from popular opinion), and why they did so; (2) what each of the seven articles of the Constitution is about, what each article’s role is in relation to the others, and how strong the judicial branch was intended to be in relation to the other two branches, and why; (3) what ways the Constitution may be amended, what the 27 amendments to the Constitution are, and what the rights protected by each amendment are; and (4) a recitation from memory, and discussion, of James Madison’s famous “If men were angels” passage from Federalist Paper No. 51 dated February 8, 1788.
Entries came from two high schools and one homeschooled student in the Northern District: Jamesville-DeWitt High School in Onondaga County; Guilderland High School in Albany County; and a homeschooled student in the Schenectady City School District.
Entries in each category were evaluated by three federal judges: Chief U.S. District Judge Brenda K. Sannes; U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby; and U.S. Magistrate Judge Thérèse Wiley Dancks. The judges evaluated the entries according to a scoring rubric that has two parts of equal value: (1) whether the entry’s answers to the questions posed in the topic are thorough and supported by historical sources; and (2) whether the entry’s answers to the questions posed in the topic are clear, interesting, and persuasive.
First place went to Christian Fuller of Jamesville-DeWitt High School, who was awarded $1,000 for his entry on Topic 3. Second place went to Gavin VanVranken of Jamesville-DeWitt High School, who was awarded $750 for his entry on Topic 3. There was a five-way tie for third place, with each of the following entrants being awarded $250 for his or her entry: Julia Gervasi of a homeschool in the Schenectady City School District, for her entry on Topic 3; Rafael Valladares of Jamesville-DeWitt High School, for his entry on Topic 3; Luca Daino of Jamesville-DeWitt High School, for his entry on Topic 3; Stephanie Luu of Jamesville-DeWitt High School, for her entry on Topic 4; and John Kuriakose of Guilderland High School, for his entry on Topic 1.
The contest was open to all students in grades 9 through 12 in the 32 counties that constitute the Northern District of New York. Notices of the contest were sent to teachers and/or administrators at each high school in the Northern District, as well as state and regional education councils, local newspapers, and local community organizations.
A ninth annual contest will be announced in the winter of 2024. A list of official rules, along with project topics and links to historical sources, will be available on the contest’s website, www.constitutionalscholars.org.