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Three Civics Bee top-scoring Buena Vista Middle schoolers will go on to state competition. Left to right:
Third place: Andee Quilico, Buena Vista Middle School, Second place: Maya Lyle, Buena Vista Middle School, First place: Joseph Drexler, Darren Patterson Christian Academy

Twenty middle school students from Buena Vista-area schools competed in the 2023 National Civics Bee regional competition in Buena Vista on Tuesday and at the end of the evening three students had emerged as the top-scoring students. The three are headed on to the state-level competition hosted by the Colorado Chamber of Commerce in Denver on May 19, 2023.

The event was hosted by the Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Colorado Chamber of Commerce and the Civic Trust of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The Buena Vista Regional Finals of the National Civics Bee were held at the Surf Hotel. Photo by Jan Wondra

Winners of the Buena Vista-area civics bee include:

First place: Joseph Drexler, Darren Patterson Christian Academy
Second place: Maya Lyle, Buena Vista Middle School
Third place: Andee Quilico, Buena Vista Middle School

Students competed with their peers in a live quiz event and answered questions from judges to test their civics knowledge. The stages of the competition included two preliminary rounds of questions, which required a tie-breaking round. Rather than five finalists per the rules, that round resulted in seven top-scoring students (including more tie scores) moving on to the final rounds.

Seven students advanced to the final round: Morgan Arnold, Paige Landers, Aberlyn Leon, Joseph Drexler, Andee Quilico, Maya Lyle, and Danni McGrath.

Some 20 students made the regional competition in Buena Vista for the National Civics Bee. Photo by Jan Wondra.

In the finals, the students were asked to provide a brief summary of their written essays and then defended their essay proposals as the event judges asked them questions. The essays ranged from affordable housing, vaping in the schools, and putting student representatives on the school board, to teen involvement in government, managing growth, and recycling and sustainability.

Maya Lyle’s essay focused on managing the rapid growth of the area and the problems it is creating for the community.

She was asked about ways to manage growth, and how to keep that growth in town, instead of sprawling outside town. Regarding how to attract bigger stores to the Buena Vista area (no doubt thinking of the cramped City Market on a summer Saturday morning), she suggested attracting more people to live in town so the population could attract bigger stores.

Andee Quilico’s essay focused on how to engage teens with local government. Buena Vista Mayor Libby Fay asked her about her ideas for increasing that involvement.

“Getting kids involved in civics at a young age would help them get more involved,” said Quilico. “That involvement would help them take a deeper look into their duty as a person in the community and give them more confidence to serve when they are adults.”

Buena Vista Police Chief Dean Morgan asked her if she saw any barriers to youth getting involved in local government. Quilico responded that although many people say that youths’ brains aren’t fully developed, that it would be a learning experience. She noted that decisions made at school are made by adults, but affect kids. She suggested that decisions made about school involve students.

First Place Finisher Jospeh Drexler’s essay was focused on the community’s problem of housing. “It’s hard to find affordable housing, teachers, police, and fire, more than 20 percent of homes are second homes,” explained Drexler. “We can help by supporting organizations like the Chaffee Housing Authority and the Elevation Land Trust.”

Asked how he would do that, Drexler responded that it would require groups of people to talk with each other, and said he’d met with representatives of Fading West. He noted that while a lot of people don’t want dense development, it would “save land out in the wild.”

Asked about his ideas for influencing second homeowners to rent out their homes to the area’s workforce, he said “Maybe we put more restrictions in place for second homeowners… put an incentive in place – maybe fewer taxes on your housing if you’re long-term renting versus short-term renting. Or, maybe tax breaks on the developments if they build more dense developments.”

“It is an honor to bring our young people the opportunity to engage and connect with the issues that impact them,” said Buena Vista Chamber President and CEO Heather Rupska. “We hope that the Civics Bee will broaden participation in our democratic process and inspire our youth to stay engaged to continue strengthening our local economy and our community.”

The first-place winner of the local competition received a $500 cash prize, and all three finalists are invited to participate in the statewide competition. All participants in the state competition will receive a tablet device as a prize from the Colorado Chamber. The top three winners of the state competition will receive cash prizes of $1,000 for first place, $500 for second place, and $250 for third place.

“We’re thrilled to recognize young Coloradans interested in civic engagement and to inspire the next generation to be involved in shaping our communities,” said Colorado Chamber President and CEO Loren Furman. “We congratulate this year’s winners from the Buena Vista competition and look forward to seeing them next month in Denver.”