For the second consecutive year, students from the Capital Region BOCES New Visions: Law & Government team has won the state-level We The People: The Citizen and the Constitution competition.
Comprised of students from several area high schools in the Questar III and Capital Region BOCES regions, the New Visions: Law & Government team bested nearly 150 finalists from five other school districts from across the state on February 27. The team will compete in the national competition in April.
This year’s team consists of five students from Questar III school districts:
- 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 (Schodack)
- Mathilda Scott, Cobleskill-Richmondville
- Keenan Loder, Cobleskill-Richmondville
- Daniel Sonthivongnorath, Scotia-Glenville
To win the state competition, the New Visions: Law & Government students had to explain the philosophical and historical foundations on which the American political system is based.
In the setting of a simulated congressional hearing, the students “testified” before panels of 18 judges to demonstrate their extensive knowledge and understanding of constitutional principles. They evaluated, took and defended positions on relevant historical and contemporary issues.
The 11 New Visions: Law & Government students competed and beat out five other regional championship teams ranging from 17 to 35 students from Long Island, New York City and western New York, said their teacher, Rich Bader.
One of the judges, Christopher Riano, a lecturer in Constitutional Law and Government at Columbia University, partner at Drohan Lee in New York City and keynote speaker at the state finals, remarked that the New Visions students “worked phenomenally well together” in demonstrating an understanding of the Constitution that was both in-depth and extensive.
Another judge, James Acker, a distinguished professor at the University of Albany, said he didn’t want the students’ testimony to have to end.
“My spirit sagged when I saw the time sign go up,” said Acker.
Bader said, “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 this civic education program), the program has benefited 30 million students nationally during its 29-year history.
The Capital Region team now advances to the national competition in Washington, D.C., which will take place April 22-25, 2016. Last year’s New Visions team was the first team from upstate New York to win the state competition and advance to the nationals in 28 years.
“Participating in New Visions: Law & Government and ‘We the People’ has brought our class further than I could have ever imagined,” said Ichabod Crane student Margaret Richards. “We have gained a whole new understanding of the Constitution and are so excited to have the opportunity to go to Nationals!”
New Visions: Law & Government is a career-exploration and honors advanced placement and college-credit-granting program offered by the Capital Region BOCES 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 New York State Education 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.
This educational opportunity is provided to students through a special agreement between Questar III and Capital Region BOCES. In an effort to provide students with the widest availability of hands-on career and technical education opportunities, Questar III and Capital Region BOCES accept students in programs uniquely offered by each BOCES – providing local districts with a cost-savings through non-duplication of programs. This effort helps to increase the number of courses offered to students in a seven county area.