NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Community leaders gathered recently in the annual New Rochelle High School Civics Symposium to debate the hot topics of the day, responding to arguments made by NRHS students.
Five students' papers, filled with substantive research, presented positions on gun control, gerrymandering, political correctness, the question of police bias and the disparate effects of the Drug War on people of color. The issues kept the discussion rolling among the panelists, who had been provided with the papers in advance.
The panelists were: Leslie Demus, an attorney and longtime advertising executive whose many civic activities include serving on the New Rochelle Library Foundation board; New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson; Alex Eodice, chairman of the Iona College Philosophy Department and a former New Rochelle City Councilman; Westchester County Legislator Jim Maisano; and Jeanne Zaino, a professor of political science and international affairs at Iona College.
The students whose papers were discussed were: Mikaela Brecher, Brandon Guizar, Ever-Maat Mack, Elijah Pomerantz and Andrew Sorota.
The event, in its 20th year, was presented by the New Rochelle Fund for Educational Excellence. It is a long-term collaboration with NRHS teachers, most notably AP Government teacher Deborah Minchin.
"The symposium offers 150 students from AP classes in Macroeconomics, Human Geography and U.S. Government an opportunity to participate in the discourse of democracy," Minchin said. "The papers serve as a jumping off point for discussions that allow our students to hear panelists offer differing views, and then to hone their own ideas while examining the complex issues which face our nation."
Pomerantz presented his paper on gerrymandering of political districts.
"In many ways, gerrymandering is at the root of disfunction," he told the panelists and audience in the Linda E. Kelly Theatre.
Bramson agreed with Pomerantz's view.
"There will be challenges no matter how you do it, but I think we can do it much, much better than it's done today," Bramson said.
The symposium allowed the students to sink their teeth into issues that tap into the country's zeitgeist.
"This is the definition of power," Zaino said of the gerrymandering question. "If you want to change your system of government, gerrymandering is where it's at. This is what all the kids should be talking about."