On May 19, 15 middle school students from across Colorado gathered at Denver to test their civics knowledge in the National Civics Bee state competition.
Held in partnership with The Civic Trust of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Daniels Fund, this event consisted of five chambers in Colorado and each of their top three students from the local competitions.
In addition to a live quiz for the 15 students, judges David Rivera of Climax Molybdenum, District 20 Representative Don Wilson and Robert Preuhs, Ph.D., of Metropolitan State University of Denver tested the top three students’ knowledge with additional questions on their essays from the beginning of the National Civics Bee earlier this year.
At the end, the top three students were awarded with cash prizes and trophies.
Aanshi Shah of Thunder Vista P-8 in Broomfield took third place, Joseph Drexler of Darren Patterson Christian Academy in Buena Vista took second place and Sriram (Ram) Yalavarthy of Drake Middle School in Arvada won first place. The cash prizes amounted to $1,000 for first, $500 for second and $250 for third.
“Ensuring a bright future for our communities requires a vital investment in the upcoming generations and inspiring them to be involved in shaping our communities through civic education,” says Loren Furman, president and CEO of the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, in a press release. “We’re thrilled to recognize young Coloradans interested in civic engagement and congratulate this year’s winners!”
On April 18, the top three students were chosen in Buena Vista at a local competition held at the Surf Hotel. Drexler took first place, Maya Lyle took second place and Andee Quilico took third.
“These three represented our community so well and congratulations to Joseph Drexler for placing second at the competition,” says Heather Rupska, president and CEO of the Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce. “Engaging with our youth is the way forward and it has been such an honor to collaborate with so many to bring this event to our community.”
For Drexler, the state competition was “pretty cool” and getting to win second place was “pretty amazing.”
“I’m just really glad I got lots of help from my mother, my father, my teacher,” he adds. “It’s been really great and fun. I thought it was surprising and cool, and I was like, ‘Whoa! Yes!’ I put a lot of hours into it and I’m glad it paid off.”
The state multiple choice rounds were harder than in the local competition, he explains, and a bit more stressful. The final round in which he gave a 3-minute speech on his essay topic – the cost of housing in Chaffee County not being affordable for the workforce – and answered questions from the judges was much easier for him.
Overall, joining the National Civics Bee this year was “definitely worth it,” Drexler says.
“I got prizes, it was fun to learn more about civics and I feel it was definitely helpful learning about a problem in our community,” he says. “I really got enveloped in that and learned a heck of a lot about civics.
“There are so many different things. We went from a small area with not much power and now we’re a world power. Lots of cool things like that. I’m just sad at how little people know about our government, and I’m glad our government’s trying to do something to change that.”
Finishing his seventh grade school year, Drexler looks forward to joining another National Civics Bee as long as he’s allowed to. Beyond that, he sees plenty of value in the knowledge he’s gained from the entire event.
“I think it would be cool to either play a role in our government like our governor or just be a normal person that knows more about civics and can help teach other people about civics,” he says.
Rupska has especially enjoyed working with the students during this event, reading their essays, teaching them how to advocate for what they believe in through the democratic process and watching them overcome their fears to bring their thoughts and ideas to light.
“Reading through all of their essays, I want our community to know that our kids are paying attention,” she says. “They wrote on many topics from affordable housing for our workforce to building a community center in BV.
“I want to thank our students, parents, local judges, Chaffee County League of Women Voters, Heart of the Rockies Radio, Ark Valley Voice and our generous sponsors – Sangre de Cristo Electric Association and High Country Bank – for making this such a great success,” Rupska adds. “We look forward to doing it again next year.”
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