FCBA Awards Prizes for High School Essays

Prize money totaling $5,000 has been awarded to 24 high school students across the NDNY for outstanding essays on the U.S. Constitution.

The prizes were awarded in a contest administered by the NDNY-FCBA’s Constitutional Scholars Program. Contestants had to submit an original essay of up to 2,000 words based exclusively on primary sources regarding the origin of some aspect of the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, essays had to concern one of seven topics: (1) what steps did the framers take to help ensure that federal court judges remain independent, and why; (2) how did the framers use the ideas of separation of powers and checks-and-balances and why; (3) why did certain framers call for a Bill of Rights and why did others initially oppose it; (4) how does the Declaration of Independence relate to the Constitution; (5) why did the framers condition the President’s appointment power on the advice and consent of the Senate; (6) how were senators originally chosen and why, and how and why was this process changed; and (7) to what extent did the Declaration of Independence and Constitution make both necessary and possible the 13th Amendment and/or 19th Amendment?

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 each high school in the NDNY. Fifty-eight submissions were received (55 from public high school students and three from private high school students). Eight public high schools were represented: Charles W. Baker High School in Baldwinsville, Columbia High School in Nassau, G. Ray Bodley High School in Fulton, Green Tech High Charter School in Albany, Guilderland High School, Niskayuna High School, Union-Endicott High School and Westport Central School. Three private high schools were represented: The Albany Academy, Bishop Maginn High School in Albany, and Tyburn Academy in Weedsport.

Nine federal judges evaluated the essays in the first round: U.S. District Judge David N. Hurd, Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy, Senior U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr., U.S. Magistrate Judge Thérèse Wiley Dancks, U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Stewart, U.S. Magistrate Judge Christian F. Hummel, Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Margaret Cangilos-Ruiz, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert E. Littlefield Jr., and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Diane Davis. Three other federal judges evaluated the top-21 finalists in the second round: Chief U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby, U.S. District Judge Mae D’Agostino, and U.S. District Judge Brenda K. Sannes. Submissions were evaluated for clarity, factual support and persuasiveness.

In the Public High School Section, first place went to Marie Collison, a tenth-grader from Guilderland High School, who received $1,000 for her essay on the adoption of the Bill of Rights. Second place went to Jenna Ruzekowicz, a twelfth-grader from G. Ray Bodley High School, who received $500 for her essay, also on the adoption of the Bill of Rights. Third place went to Burhanulhaq Brula, a tenth-grader also from Guilderland High School, who received $250 for his essay on how the Declaration of Independence relates to the Constitution.

In the Private High School Section, first place went to Tyler Reohr, a twelfth-grader from Tyburn Academy, who received $1,000 for his essay on how the Declaration of Independence relates to the Constitution. Second place went to Christopher Hanchar, an eleventh-grader from The Albany Academy, who received $500 for his essay on the independence of federal judges. Third place went to Gabriel Silverstein, an eleventh-grader from Bishop Maginn High School, who received $250 for his essay on the adoption of the Bill of Rights.

The other prize winners were as follows: Charles Joseph of Guilderland High School (fourth place–$200); Reilly Holtman of Charles W. Baker High School (fifth place–$175); Grace Smith of Niskayuna High School (tie for sixth place–$125); Avanti Khare of Niskayuna High School (tie for sixth place–$125); Allison Lloyd of Guilderland High School (tie for sixth place–$125); Nathan Cao of Guilderland High School (ninth place–$100); Hannah Foppoli Hernandez of Guilderland High School (tie for tenth place–$75); Ricky Walser of Guilderland High School (tie for tenth place–$75); Jessica Airhienbuwa of Guilderland High School (honorable mention–$50); Grace McFerran of Guilderland High School (honorable mention–$50); Stella Tricket of Guilderland High School (honorable mention–$50); Rya Vallabhaneni of Guilderland High School (honorable mention–$50); Rubeina Firdaus of Guilderland High School (honorable mention–$50); Max Carothers of Guilderland High School (honorable mention–$50); Caleb Rockhill of Guilderland High School (honorable mention–$50); Matt Knapp of Columbia High School (honorable mention–$50); Abe Statts of Westport Central School (honorable mention–$50); and Hannah Risko of Guilderland High School (honorable mention–$50).

The contest was the Constitutional Scholar Program’s fourth annual. A fifth annual contest will be announced in the fall 2019. A list of official rules, along with essay topics and links to historical sources, are available on the contest’s website, www.constitutionalscholars.org.