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GAVEL TO GAVEL

Are you for or against wearing uniforms in school?

Do you think that applicants for a driver's license should be required to have a high school diploma?

Do you have any idea what the New York State Constitutional Convention is?

If you are clueless about one or all of these issues, then listen up. Tell your teacher to turn on the television in your classroom to Channel 23 on Friday from 9 to 11 a.m.

That is when the first ever KIDSVENTION will take place, and schoolkids from all over Western New York can take part over the airwaves.

(If your teacher can't squeeze it in on Friday, tell him or her that the show will be repeated on Monday from 1 to 3 p.m., also on Channel 23.)

What is KIDSVENTION?

It's a live forum (a collaboration between Kids Voting New York and Western New York Public Broadcasting), in which teams from Western New York schools will debate the issues of uniforms, drivers' licenses and the Constitutional Convention.

Earlier this month, teams from more than 65 local schools gathered at Buffalo's public broadcasting headquarters to vie for a spot at KIDSVENTION.

Twelve teams of three students each made the cut (for a total a 36 students), and these seventh- to 12th-graders will take part in the live forum.

Seventh- and ninth-graders will give pro and con presentations on this specific question: "Do you think the 'mandated' wearing of school uniforms has a positive effect on student achievement and school environment?"

Eighth- and 10th-graders will discuss this issue: "Should applicants for a New York State driver's license be required to have a high school diploma?"

And 11th and 12th graders will discuss both sides of this question: "Should there be a New York State Constitutional Convention?"

The teams spent weeks preparing for the runoffs, getting to know their issue inside and out. They were judged on their reasoning, the evidence they compiled, their presentation and their response to follow-up questions.

The panel of judges included local lawyers, educators, court judges and representatives from Kids Voting and Channel 17.

The teams that made it are refining their presentations, which will be aired on live television. That's right -- if you watch on Friday, you will see these students as they actually give their presentations.

A KIDSVENTION also was held in San Jose, Calif., but according to Anthony Buttino, vice president of the Western New York Public Broadcasting Association, this is the first time it has been televised gavel to gavel.

The format of the local forum won't be like what the Debate Club in your school does. Instead, the pro and con teams will have several minutes to give their side of the issue, and there will be questions and comments from the audience, which will be made up of the students who took part in the runoffs. Because these audience members are familiar with the issues, expect some tough questioning.

Buttino said this is the first time that some of the students will participate in an event with others from the City of Buffalo, suburban and rural schools. Both public and private schools will take part.

So why hold a KIDSVENTION?

"It's a way to get educated on the issues before you go to vote," says Buttino.

Vote?

These three questions will be included on the Kids Voting ballots on Election Day, Nov. 4.

That means thousands of Western New York kids will be able to go to the polling place with their parents and cast their votes on local elections as well as the three specific questions.

A similar Constitutional Convention question is on the adults' ballot. The questions on uniforms and drivers' licenses will be on only the Kids Voting ballots.

"We wanted them to be able to vote on some issues that were their own issues," explains Anne Leary, executive director of Kids Voting New York.

This year, 180,000 elementary and high school students from more than 30 school districts in Erie and Niagara counties are taking part in Kids Voting.

But before you go to vote, get educated on the issues by tuning into KIDSVENTION. These are the participating teams

Seventh grade: Amherst Middle School (Nick Baer, Yulia Yusim, Erin Gallivan) will discuss the pro position on the school uniform question.

Olmsted #56 (Adam Cady, Lisa Edmunds, Hillary Hunt) will discuss the con position.

Ninth grade: Frontier High School (Sam Hoak, Kim Kane, Robyn Petkovsky) will also take the pro position on the uniform question.

City Honors (Aidan Adams, Dana McKnight, Geoffrey Golden) will discuss the con position on the uniform question.

Eighth grade: St. Paul's School (Chris Dearing, Mauren Domzalski, Brendan Ciura) will discuss the pro position on the driver's license question.

East Aurora Middle School (Faye Cobb, Ellen Horbett, John Mion) will discuss the con position.

10th grade: Kenmore East High School (Alyson MacVittie, Trevor Brown, Cheryl Deacy) will discuss the pro side of the driver's license question.

Kenmore West High School (Domini Jay, Sara Ayler, Gareth MacCubbin) will take the con position on that question.

11th grade: Park School of Buffalo (Amir Beg, Jonathan Leahy, Rachel Hazel) will take the pro position on the State Constitutional Convention question.

Williamsville East (Debbie Ryan, Jeff Retallack, Christopher Malagisi) will take the con position.

12th grade: Buffalo Traditional (Jasina Chapman, Elizabeth Wilson, Connor White) will take the pro position on the Constitutional Convention question.

Lancaster High School (Jeff Majka, Jeff Bartel, Kelli Dunlap) will take the con position.

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