Winners Announced in Sixth Annual Essay Contest

The FCBA has again awarded $4,500 in prize money to entrants of its Annual Constitution Contest, co-sponsored by the U.S. District Court.

All entries were required to address the origin of some aspect of the U.S. Constitution, and fall into one of three categories: (1) essays, which had to be typed, between 1,000 and 2,000 words in length, and be based exclusively on primary sources that were cited in a recognized system of citation; (2) artistic works, consisting of (a) poems or short stories (which had to be typed and between 250 and 2,000 words in length) or (b) graphic art (which had to be on one piece of material); and (3) video performances, which had to be shorter than 10 minutes in duration, be from memory, and be posted on JotForm.com, Instagram Reels, TikTok or YouTube.

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 administrators at each high school in the Northern District, and were published in various local newspapers and on the social media websites Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.

The FCBA received more than three dozen entries in all three categories from nine schools across the Northern District: Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School in Saratoga County, Cazenovia High School in Madison County, Fayetteville-Manlius High School in Onondaga County, Guilderland High School in Albany County, LaFayette High School in Onondaga County, Manlius Pebble Hill School in Onondaga County, Mekeel Christian Academy in Schenectady County, Notre Dame High School in Herkimer County, and Queensbury High School in Warren County.

Entries covered an array of subjects:

  1. how the framers made 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 each of the two chambers of our bicameral legislature was originally intended to represent (i.e., before 1913), and why;
  3. who argued against, and who argued for, the ratification of the Bill of Rights, and what their arguments were;
  4. why freedom of speech was one of the first rights mentioned in the Bill of Rights;
  5. how the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence promised rights that were not provided a dozen years later in the Constitution, and how the rights were eventually provided;
  6. a recitation from memory of the rights protected by the 27 amendments to the Constitution; and
  7. a recitation from memory of James Madison’s famous “If [people] were angels” passage from Federalist Paper No. 51.

Entries in the Essay Category were evaluated by three U.S. district judges (Chief U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby, U.S. District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino, and U.S. District Judge Brenda K. Sannes). Entries in the Artistic Works Category and Video-Performance Category were evaluated by four U.S. magistrate judges (U.S. Magistrate Judge Thérèse Wiley Dancks, U.S. Magistrate Judge Christian F. Hummel, U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Stewart, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Miro Lovric). All entries were evaluated based on originality, clarity, historical accuracy, thoroughness and persuasiveness. In addition, all entries were redacted to keep the entrant’s identity anonymous.

Prize winners were notified on June 25, 2021. In the Essay Category, first place went to Elizabeth Liu of Guilderland High School, who received $750 for her essay on how the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence promised rights that were not provided until later and how. Second place went to Pratham Khare of Guilderland High School, who received $350 for an essay on the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Third place went to Savanna Jiang of Guilderland High School, who received $150 for her essay on the value of freedom of speech. Fourth place went to Nihal Amineni of Guilderland High School, who received $75 for an essay on the ratification of the Bill of Rights.

Honorable mention (and modest monetary prizes) went to David Zhang of Guilderland High School, Noah Bennett of Mekeel Christian Academy, Andrew Nocilly of Fayetteville-Manlius High School, Scott David Health of LaFayette High School, Xiaofu Gao of Guilderland High School, Maya Shoemaker of Guilderland High School, Haley Gebauer of Guilderland High School, Fatimah Schulz of Guilderland High School, Sidney DeMonte of Fayetteville-Manlius High School, Jenay Bartlett of Guilderland High School, Alexis Pris of Guilderland High School, Joseph Ciccarelli of Guilderland High School, Hanvitha Kunkalaguntla of Guilderland High School, and Keara Higgins of Guilderland High School.

Our Bicameralism posterIn the Artistic Works Category, first place went to Abigail Waite of Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School, who received $750 for her short story on the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Second place went to Zoe Costanza of Fayetteville-Manlius High School, who received $350 for her poster on bicameralism. Third place went to Rayah Hoy of Guilderland High School, who received $150 for a drawing on the value of free speech. Fourth place went to Erika Irwin of Guilderland High School, who received $75 for her poem on the independence of federal judges. Honorable mention (and modest monetary prizes) went to Kate Chorbajian of Guilderland High School, and Abbey Maring of Fayetteville-Manlius High School.

In the Video-Performance Category, first place went to Isabella Wheeler of Burnt Hills-Ballston Spa High School, who received $750 for her original song on the freedom of speech. Second place went to Alex Mondelo of Guilderland High School, who received $350 for her video on the freedom of speech. Third place went to Rachel Beth Mannix of Queensbury High School, who received $150 for her recitation of James Madison’s “If [people] were angels” passage. Fourth place went to Emma Wendt of Guilderland High School, who received $75 for her recitation of James Madison’s “If [people] were angels” passage. Fifth place went to Angelina Reish of Guilderland High School, who received $50 for her recitation of the rights protected by the 27 amendments to the Constitution. Honorable mention (and modest monetary prizes) went to Mirzad Glavic of Guilderland High School, J.P. Hoak of Cazenovia High School, and Peyton Geehrer of Fayetteville-Manlius High School.

Wheeler’s winning entry in the Video-Performance category can be viewed on YouTube. https://youtu.be/yCzajsIdNoU

A seventh annual contest will be announced in the fall of 2021. A list of official rules, along with project topics and links to historical sources, is available on the contest’s website, www.constitutionalscholars.org.