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 San Diego Students Make Their Case in Ninth Circuit Contest

Four San Diego County students were awarded top honors in the 2018 Ninth Circuit Civics Contest.

The local scholars were selected from a pool of more than 1,200 entries in the annual contest, which asks students to write an essay or produce a short video related to a select civics topic.

James Freedman, 15, of Torrey Pines High School, placed second and Kayla Pebdani, 15, of La Costa Canyon High School, placed third in the essay portion. Natalia Escobedo and Ivan Velasco, both 18, of Coronado High School placed third in the video portion of the contest.

The full essays and more about the winners are in the Civics Contest booklet.

The theme of the 2018 contest was "The 14th Amendment 150 Years After Ratification: What Does Equal Protection Mean to Students?" Students were asked to explain, through an essay or a short video, how Congress and the federal courts have applied the Equal Protection Clause to public education, whether in admissions, classrooms or on the athletic fields.

The San Diego County finalists "demonstrated a clear understanding of the nature and importance of the Equal Protection Clause, and I look forward to seeing their future impact on our community," said San Diego County Board of Education President Guadalupe González.

The contest was open to students in grades 9 to 12 in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, the United States Territory of Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. There were 1,149 essays and 121 videos submitted by students across the circuit region. At the circuit level, prizes of $2,000, $1,000, and $500 are awarded to first-, second - and third-place winners in the writing and video categories.

Federal courts in all 15 judicial districts in the Ninth Circuit held local contests with winners going on to compete in the circuit-wide competition.

The winners for the local contest sponsored by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California essay competition are: first place, James Freedman of Torrey Pines High School; second place, Kayla Pebdani of La Costa Canyon High School; and third place, Amy Cho of La Jolla Country Day School. Video winners are: first place, Ivan Velasco and Natalia Escobedo of Coronado High School; second place, Angelina Felipe, Andres Rodriguez, and Shaun Tayaba of Morse High School; and third place, Katharina Roemer and Rose Bradshaw of San Diego High School.

"I am extremely proud of our San Diego County students who showed exceptional thoughtfulness and skill in their essay and video submissions," said San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold.

The winning essay will be read and winning video shown July 23 during the opening session of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in Anaheim, a major gathering of the federal bench and bar from the western states. Essays and videos from all of the finalists will be posted to the contest website in early July.