Graduation Class of 2018
Honors: Outdoor Wildlife Learning Site Grant Recipient, Elna Friedstrom Scholarship Recipient, AP Scholar with Distinction, Youth Court Awardee, Koch Foundation Scholarship Awardee, Washburn Rural Green Project participant, Mayor’s Youth Council member, and Topeka Teen Advisory Board member.
Thomas Wu is often found in the great outdoors, reaping the benefits from the Environmental Protection Agency created by his favorite president Richard Nixon. As a participant in the 2017 Constitutional Academy, Thomas is one of the best students the Bill of Rights Institute has to offer. In addition to joining the Institute in D.C. for a week, he spends his time volunteering in Youth Court as a defense attorney and participating in the Topeka Teen Advisory Board. He understands the power that a community can have on the people living there.
A winner of various awards, including the Youth Court Award and designation as an AP Scholar with Distinction, Thomas is an active member in his school and in his community. When asked about his biggest achievement, Thomas said he was most proud of, “learning how to be proactive and engaged in many subjects, clubs, and organizations that I believe in.” His work as an environmental and community activist lead him to an Outdoor Wildlife Learning Site Grant that has resulted in the creation of a butterfly habitat, two bird feeders, and a hummingbird garden.
Thomas hopes to major in Political and Environmental Science, and eventually run for Congress. He is passionate about renewable energy, and aspires to help that sector of our economy through his studies and career in politics. Through public policy and environmental regulations, while raising awareness about climate change, the bee crisis, and ecology, Thomas believes he can become a “mover and shaker” of his generation.
Graduating Class of 2018
Honors: President of National Honors Society, Executive Secretary of Student Council, Member of Speak Up Speak Out, Member of Superintendent Advisory Council, Member of Spanish Club, Founder of Young Democrats Club, Mentor at Boys and Girls Club, Recipient of Speak Up Speak Out Spirit Award, and Page for State Senator Kirk Wilson.
Natalia is a passionate member of the Bill of Rights Institute Student Network; the 2017 Constitutional Academy was privileged to have her as a participant. Her work ethic and high levels of community engagement gave her the opportunity to visit the White House in 2016 for a Civic Workshop. While there, she developed the skills necessary to have a positive and lasting impact in her community. Natalia used that workshop to help form her lifelong goal: changing people’s perspective on immigration. Although a difficult task, she is prepared to start her own organization to achieve that goal and talk to as many people as possible about the benefits of immigration and how coming to the United States changed the lives of many of her friends and family.
Along with her fellow students in Constitutional Academy, Natalia was able to develop her civil discourse skills throughout the week in Washington, D.C. She will use what she learned to achieve her ultimate goal, changing the world by fostering peace and understanding among all people. She stated, “We are the next generation; we are the change,” as she referenced the importance of understanding the Constitution. Her favorite resource that the Institute offers is the easy access to the full text of the Constitution and the amendments. Natalia is thankful that the Bill of Rights Institute offers resources that can point herself and her peers to the founding principles.
When asked about her favorite amendment, Natalia did not hesitate to answer the First Amendment. She believes that with increased immigration, there must be a way for residents of the United States to talk about their cultures. For Natalia, that is what creates a healthy society and part of what makes America great. Natalia also mentioned that the First Amendment “has always been an importance throughout history, and because of this right, people have been able to impact and change the world by protesting and fighting for change.”
In the future, be sure to look for Natalia studying political science at Texas Tech or the University of Texas and eventually pursuing a J.D. Her ambition will surely carry her to help as many people as possible reach their dreams of staying in the United States. Natalia’s passion and ability to use the resources she is surrounded by will give her great success in life and in her fight for a world that can talk about and embrace its differences.
Honors: National Honor Society, National Art Honor Society, National Science Honor Society, National English Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society, Girl Scouts, Teen Advisory Board, Varsity Letter in Crew, Bronze and Silver Award in Girl Scouts, played piano at the White House for three years
As the coxswain on her school’s crew team, Maiah Khin steers the boat and guides her teammates. In a few years though, don’t be surprised to see her steering international relations! Maiah’s heritage drives her passion for government and policy. Her family came to American from Burma, and their experiences in that country have deepened her appreciation for the freedoms of America. She’s fluent in Burmese, works as a tutor, is teaching herself Arabic, and has co-founded a public service and stress relief club at her school.
Maiah’s desire to engage with civics led her to the Bill of Rights Institute. She often visits the Institute’s website to read resources and access educational videos. In 2016, she was accepted to the Institute’s Constitutional Academy. This experience helped Maiah deepen her understanding of the inner workings of the United States government. She notes that the resources the Academy provided have helped her in classes she is currently taking. Her favorite part of Constitutional Academy was attending a naturalization ceremony. She describes it as an opportunity for her to, “learn more deeply what her family went through.” She also enjoyed hearing from veterans at Arlington National Ceremony, as her father served in the military. She credits participating in the Academy as the experience that cemented her desire to study history and international relations.
When asked which aspect of the Constitution she thinks most significant, Maiah highlighted the First Amendment. For her, freedom of speech is important because, “many other forms of government don’t provide the right to say what you want.” She feels America is special in that regard.
Maiah will graduate in 2017, and is excited to attend college and pursue a career in international relations, perhaps one day working for the CIA.
Honors: Two-time Colorado History Day State Champion, Colorado All State Band, 2016 Daniels Scholar
Joshua Bogen is currently a freshman at Occidental College in Denver, Colorado. He is active in his community and participates in extra-curricular activities such as teaching Hebrew and Judaica, and playing Varsity baseball. He is a Board Member of The Rose Youth Foundation, an organization that seeks to enhance the quality of life of the Greater Denver community through its leadership, resources, traditions and values.
Joshua is an alumnus of Constitutional Academy 2015. A defining moment in Josh’s education came during Constitutional Academy when he discovered that, “discourse is the most powerful tool in our democracy.” Reflecting on Constitutional Academy Josh said that, “during the Academy I spent most of my time talking to those I disagreed with, because I realized that I could learn more from those with whom I disagreed than I would in an entire year of high school government class.” Since participating in Constitutional Academy, Josh has remained in contact with many of his colleagues and continues to engage in ongoing discourse and friendly debate with them.
Joshua’s biggest achievement as a student was receiving the Daniels Fund Scholarship. The Daniels Fund Scholarships is awarded to students in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Utah who are recognized as having great leadership potential, the desire to do good, and the aptitude to do well. Joshua said that, “it has been a tremendous honor to be a part of this wonderful organization.”
Joshua is still in the process of figuring out what he would like to do in life, although he does have a passion for politics. He said that “Whatever I decide to do, my only goal is to help the world as much as I possibly can. To me, a person’s purpose on this planet is to leave it better than they found it.”
Graduating Year: 2017
Honors: Two-time FBLA states attendee, Silver Medal winner at the Head of Ohio (2015), Bronze Medal winner at Midwest Rowing Regionals (2015)
Daniel is currently a senior at Fox Chapel Area High School in Pittsburgh. In addition to his academic pursuits, he is an active member of his school’s FBLA team, crew team, forensics club, chess club, and orchestra. Daniel has worked diligently to pursue his passions, and he is a regional silver and bronze medalist in crew, and a two-time state qualifier in the FBLA.
Daniel has participated in the Institute’s online debate platform, and was also selected to attend the 2017 Constitutional Academy. Reflecting on his experience at the Academy, Daniel says he “loved having open and civil discussions on a variety of hot political topics with students from all over the nation. Constitutional Academy strengthened my understanding of the Constitution.”
He is known as something of a history buff, excelling in his AP U.S. History, AP World History, and AP Government courses. When asked about how the Constitution and the Founding principles play a role in his life he says, “I want to tie the Constitution into my life by respecting the rights that I believe everyone has.” Daniel believes that the Constitution is the most important document in our country’s history, as it secures certain rights for citizens and facilitates freedom.
Daniel is looking forward to graduating this coming spring and taking his talents to either the University of Pittsburgh, Holy Cross, Hillsdale College, or Loyola University in Maryland. After majoring in political science or business, Daniel aspires to attend law school to become a Constitutional lawyer. He desires to help others understand their rights and guarantee their protection under the Constitution.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Honors: Red Cross Real Heroes Youth Good Samaritan 2014, Medical Reserve Corps Honors, President’s List (4.0) Fall 2015 and Spring 2016, Girl Scout Gold Award, Constitutional Academy 2015
Annika Cushnyr is a sophomore at the Central Michigan University Honors College, and is double-majoring in French and Political Science with a concentration in International Relations. She is a former intern for Senator Tom Udall, a current Resident Assistant at her university, and is involved in the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority. Annika is described by her friends as “determined, ambitious, and organized.”
Annika was initially introduced to the Institute through the “We the Students” essay contest in 2015. Annika deepened her involvement in BRI by attending Constitutional Academy in the summer of 2015. She described the academy as, “an incredible week that forced her to think about issues from many different viewpoints. It was a rewarding experience to be surrounded by individuals that are passionate about the same topics as me, even though we may have disagreed on major issues.”
Of great importance to Annika is the Constitutional principle of “equality under the law.” In her mind equality, should be at the heart of all decisions made by policy-makers. The principle of equality connects to Annika in a more concrete way to her current and future career. Beginning in 2017, Annika will have the opportunity to be CEO of the non-profit Bridges to Tajikistan, whose mission is to build connections, create opportunity, and advance education for youth in both the U.S. and Tajikistan.
Annika will be studying abroad in Sweden during the Fall semester of 2017, and hopes to continue her international focus by studying in France the following Spring. Annika plans to attend law school upon the completion of her bachelor’s degree. After law school, she would like to work within the field of international human rights.
2016 Constitutional Academy Participant, 2016 Debate Outreach Program
Honors: Madalyn is part of the National Honor Society, National French Honor Society, a 2-time FBLA Nationals Qualifier, a MSHSAA State Speech and Debate Policy Champion (Missouri) and a Missouri We the People State Champion (2016).
Madalyn is a Senior from Nixa High School in Missouri. She is actively involved in her school and community. Her peers and Constitutional Academy colleagues have characterized her as, “opinionated, invested in politics, and owning a voice of her own,” and Institute staff note that she, “could debate and discuss policy as well as any participant in the history of the Academy.”
Reflecting back on Constitutional Academy, Madalyn describes the experience as, “an opportunity to learn from political professionals and historians, as well as a chance to refresh my beliefs after hearing academic discourse among other students and participating in Academy debates.” She also noted that the academy helped her explore career opportunities as well as connect with prominent D.C. figures.
Madalyn looks to instill founding principles into many areas of her life. She spends a lot of her time relating the founding ideas of absolute freedom and free movement of information to current marketing and education practices. She compares her commitment to those principles to Alexander Hamilton’s commitment to The Federalist Papers, noting, “I spend a lot of my Twitter characters defending policies and politicians I believe in.”
Madalyn will be graduating in 2017 with the goals of working on political campaigns through campaign marketing and eventually running for office herself. She is passionate about criminal justice and prison reform and aspires to create change in those areas.
Las Cruces, New Mexico
2014, 2015, 2016 NMAA Symphony Orchestra State Champion
2017 NMASC State Conference Student Coordinator
Student Board of Directors- Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas (Branch of El Paso)
Bill of Rights Institute’s USCIS Immigration Group Project Winner
Danae is currently a senior attending Centennial High School in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Her involvement in her school’s symphony orchestra, student government, National Honors Society, Key Club, and Interact Club have developed her as a young community leader. Her greatest achievements have come through her involvement in her high school’s orchestra and student government.
Danae notes that her involvement in the We the Students essay competition, Constitutional Connection, and 2016 Constitutional Academy has, “broadened her familiarity with current issues and opened her mind up to new ways of thinking.”
This summer, she had an opportunity to participate in a naturalization ceremony as part of the 2016 Constitutional Academy. She described this experience as an, “amazing scene to see such a diverse population be so overjoyed to become United States citizens,” and thought that Constitutional Academy as a whole “was a life-changing event.”
Danae will be graduating in 2017 and hopes to attend Baylor University. After university, she wants to help people by practicing as a pediatrician surgeon both locally and internationally, later going on to work in health policy.
Outstanding Community Leader – presented by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Alliance for Economic Inclusion Spotlight Acknowledgement
Kansas Honor Scholar
Free Speech Competition Grand Award
Pogue Scholar (@ UNC Chapel Hill for the upcoming school year)
Jolynn has been an outstanding participant in various Bill of Rights Institute programs, including the We the Student Essay Competition and Constitutional Academy 2015. During the Academy, her peers and staff described her as,“collaborative, constantly curious and a great listener.” When reflecting on Constitutional Academy 2015, she notes,“the Academy allowed my mindset to expand as I utilized knowledge I gained when analyzing current events. Additionally, I was able to dive into topics and history that I would not have had access to otherwise.”
Her love of the Founding and the Constitution is rooted deep within the fabric of her being. Jolynn says, “the Constitution and Founding principles have given me new lenses with which to read the newspaper. They shape my voice when I participate in political discussions. More than this, they have made me more politically aware, actively seeking out knowledge on political topics.”
Throughout her life, Jolynn has been focused on empowering others. She created and implemented a financial literacy program for her high school, was selected as a global delegate to the Trust Women Conference held in England, and helped local charities through the Girl’s Grant Project. Describing herself as, “a firm believer in the power of the individual,” Jolynn is proudest of the work she has done to help facilitate empowerment for other individuals.
Jolynn recently graduated from high school and will be attending the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the fall as a Pogue Scholar. She plans on studying business and conducting research that focuses on human rights issues.
Leighanne currently attends Colorado Springs Early Colleges High School. She is a member of the National Honor Society and is a musician, soccer player, and worship leader at her church. Her peers say she is, “intelligent, opinionated, and not given to being intimidated by individuals that would attempt to stifle free speech.” Those whom she worships with describe her as “a thoughtful and intense person, who is committed to God. She is also highly regarded in the work place, as she entertains customers with quick wit!”
When asked about the Constitution, Leighanne says she, “believes that the Constitution was set into place so that our country would have a foundation to always come back to for help. It has set the standard for what our Founding Fathers believed our society should look like.”
She has grown to appreciate the Constitution through her business law class and notes that, “it taught me how much of a role the Constitution plays in my everyday life even though it was written a long time ago.”
Leighanne aspires to graduate with her Bachelors’ degree in business and then go on to earn an MBA. She seeks to use the skills acquired from her education to fight human trafficking both locally and internationally.
Favorite Quote: “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” -Ayn Rand
Butler, Pennsylvania • Constitutional Academy 2015
Voted “Most Likely to Run the Constitutional Academy in 10 years” by my Constitutional Academy peers.
Co-president of the speech and debate team
Graduate of the Leadership Institute’s Youth Leadership School in Arlington, Virginia
First place winner for Senior Individual Exhibit for the National History Day’s Pittsburgh regional competition
In the past, most of my peers in school have had this apathy towards my love of history, economics and politics. I always felt that students my own age saw me as an outsider because of my passion for discussing current events and learning more about our founding documents. I even at times dealt with opponents inside and outside of the classroom who were very against my support of the Constitution. Thankfully, at Constitutional Academy, I found the opposite. I discovered that there are professors and teachers who praised the founding fathers rather than degrade them. I connected with other bright young constitutionalists who believe that it us up to us, the rising generation, to restore America back to the country the founders intended. And I felt a sense of mutual admiration and respect from these classmates I only spent a few days with. The young minds who are left with the task of protecting and defending the Constitution in a culture that tells us it is outdated and does not promote “progress”.
I recently applied for an internship at United States Representative Mike Kelly’s regional office where I hope to learn more about the legislative process. I also have applied to attend Turning Point USA’s Winter Activism Conference where I plan to learn more about campus activism and network with other conservatives. My hope is to be accepted and to attend Hillsdale College in Michigan. I hope for the opportunity to take a gap year, return to Hillsdale, double major in economics and political science, and maybe intern for an organization like the Bill of Rights Institute. I honestly would intern for the Bill of Rights Institute this summer if they would take me, because I know how successful they are at conveying the messages and voices of the founders in such a spirited, youthful, honest and lively way. I feel part of my future is finding out why an organization such as the Bill of Rights Institute is so successful in what they do and then replicate that myself. I envision myself in 20 years establishing my own organization, if not sooner.