Students from several area high schools will compete this weekend at George Mason University in the national "We The People: The Citizen and the Constitution" competition.
The students, who are enrolled in the Capital Region BOCES New Visions Law & Government Program, will showcase their knowledge of the constitution by taking part in simulated congressional hearings.
During the finals, groups of students testify as constitutional experts before panels of judges acting as congressional committees scoring the groups through a performance-based assessment.
On Thursday, the students took to the New York State Appellate Court where they argued in from of judges, court clerks and others. During that final tune-up, the students cited current and past Supreme Court rulings, the current presidential race, President’s Richard Nixon’s term in office and constitutional findings to make their case one way or another on an opinion.
"The class has been working hard and enthusiastically to prepare for the National Competition,” said teacher Richard Bader.
During Thursday’s practice run in front of several area lawyers, the students were praised for their effort.
“Nice job,” Sean Morton, an attorney told the students after hearing their arguments and responses to questions and he and other lawyers posed.
“You all are already winners,” fellow lawyer Jay Worona told the students.
The format, according to competition organizers, provides students an excellent opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of constitutional principles while providing the seventy-two judges with an excellent means of assessing students' knowledge and application to historical and current constitutional issues.
The Capital Region BOCES Career & Technical School’s New
Visions: Law & Government team — consisting of students from
Capital Region BOCES and Questar III — bested more than 100
peers from across the state in February to reach the national competition.
The state champion New Visions: Law & Government student team consists of students:
• Alex Wilgocki, Mohonasen
• Gabrielle Agostino, Mohonasen
• Julian Schlemmer, Troy
• Mutaz Ali, Troy
• Morgan Daignault, Sharon Springs
• Margaret Richards, Ichabod Crane
• Katie Gibson, Ichabod Crane
• Kyle Hurysz, Maple Hill
• Mathilda Scott, Cobleskill-Richmondville
• Keenan Loder, Cobleskill-Richmondville
• Daniel Sonthivongnorath, Scotia-Glenville
The New Visions: Law & Government students prepared for the competition in part by studying "We The People: The Citizen and Constitution’, an intensive curriculum focusing on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Funded and run in New York by the New York State Bar Association’s Law Youth and Citizenship program since 2010 when Congress stopped funding the civic education program, the program has benefited 30 million students nationally during its 28-year history, Bader said.
New Visions: Law & Government is a career-exploration and honors Advanced Placement and college credit-granting program offered by the Capital Region BOCES Career & Technical School for honors-level, college-bound high school seniors. Participating students attend the program for a half day and their home high schools the other half of the school day.
In a classroom located at the State Education Department building in downtown Albany, New Visions: Law & Government students study an integrated curriculum of advanced coursework in political science, law, English and economics, with government and law-related internships, job shadowing, field trips, community service and competitions. Students learn first-hand about the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, as well as about the private legal sector. The attached photos show students during Thursday’s practice in the state appellate court.
In the top photo are Gabrielle Agostino, Julian Schlemmer and Katie Gibson.
In the second photo are: Keenan Loder, Mathilda Scott and Margaret Richards.
In the third photo are attorneys (who acted as judges during Thursday's practice run) Raquel Babeu, Jay Warona and Sean Morton.
Pictured in the group photo are: (front) Morgan Daignault, Sharon Springs; Margaret Richards, Ichabod Crane, Katie Gibson, Ichabod Crane and Kyle Hurysz, Maple Hill. (Back) Mathilda Scott, Cobleskill-Richmondville, Julian Schlemmer, Troy, Keenan Loder, Cobleskill-Richmondville, Alex Wilgocki, Mohonasen, Mutaz Ali, Troy, Daniel Sonthivongnorath, Scotia-Glenville and Gabrielle Agostino, Mohonasen.