Constitution Contest Continues to Inspire High Schoolers Across District

The FCBA’s Annual Constitution Contest encourages high schoolers to think, speak and write in constitutional terms, and this year’s categories allowed participants to express themselves using fun and innovative methods of communication.

There were two categories for entries this year: (1) a Poster Category for visual arrangements of text and images of any size and media as long as the content is suitable for reproduction as a two-dimensional poster; and (2) a Video Performance Category for recitations, speeches and songs shorter than 10 minutes in duration that have been uploaded to social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube and Instagram Reels.

Thirty-seven high schoolers responded, creating colorful posters and lively videos for the FCBA’s seventh annual contest. Twenty-five (25) entries were received in the Poster Category, and 12 entries were received in the Video Performance Category.

As usual, each entry was required to address the origin of some aspect of the U.S. Constitution. However, this year, entries were required to address one of the following six subjects:

  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;
  2. who the two chambers of our bicameral legislature were originally intended to represent (i.e., before 1913), what function this was intended to serve in a system of checks and balances, how and why this was changed in 1913, and why each state’s number of senators was fixed rather than tied to the state’s population;
  3. who argued against the ratification of the Bill of Rights (i.e., the first 10 amendments to the Constitution), who argued for its ratification, and what their arguments were;
  4. 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;
  5. what the 27 amendments to the Constitution are, and what the rights protected by each amendment are; and
  6. a recitation and discussion of James Madison’s famous “If men were angels” passage from Federalist Paper No. 51 dated February 8, 1788.

Entries came from seven high schools in four counties across the Northern District: Bethlehem Central High School in Albany County, Cazenovia High School in Madison County, Clayton A. Bouton High School (Voorheesville) in Albany County, Clinton Senior High School in Oneida County, Fayetteville-Manlius High School in Onondaga County, Guilderland High School in Albany County, and Jamesville-DeWitt High School in Onondaga County.

Entries in each category were evaluated by three federal judges: U.S. Magistrate Judge Thérèse Wiley Dancks, U.S. Magistrate Judge Christian F. Hummel, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Stewart. 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. Entries were redacted to keep each entrant’s identity anonymous. Prize winners were notified on September 17, 2022 (Constitution Day).

In the Poster Category, first place went to Isaac Bennett of Jamesville-DeWitt High School, who received $750 for his poster on the Bill of Rights. Second place went to Angela Tawfik of Guilderland High School, who received $500 for her poster on the 27 Amendments to the Constitution. And third place went to Novalee Lavin, also of Guilderland High School, who received $250 for his poster on the Bill of Rights. The top 20 of the remaining entrants each received Honorable Mention and a cash prize of $50 for their posters.

Angela Tawfik’s second-place entry in the Poster Category can be seen above.

In the Video Performance Category, first place went to Brianna Hillmann of Clayton A. Bouton  High School, who received $750 for her video. Second place went to Adien Caporaso of Jamesville-DeWitt High School, who received $500 for his video. Two entrants tied for third place—JP Hoak of Cazenovia High School and Miranda Putorti of Guilderland High School—each receiving $250 for their videos. Fourth place went to Kate Elizabeth Murphy, also of Guilderland High School, who received $100 for her video. And the top three of the remaining entrants each received Honorable Mention and a cash prize of $50 for their videos.

Angela Tawfik’s second-place entry in the Poster Category can be seen above. And JP Hoak’s third-place entry in the Video-Performance category can be viewed on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_Sh2GyHn-s

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 emailed to teachers and/or administrators at each high school in the Northern District, and were published on the social media websites Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.

An eighth annual contest will be announced in the winter of 2023. 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.