The debate team at Forest Hills High School recently emerged from a competition last month as the best squad in New York State.
Now the 35 seniors are turning to the community in an effort to raise $22,000 they will need in order to go to Washington, DC, in April for the national championships.
“Our dilemma is that to send 35 to 40 people to Washington, including transportation and a hotel for five days would cost about $40,000,” said Principal Saul Gootnick. “We have about $18,000, and we can’t sell $22,000 worth of candy. We’re reaching out to the community, alumni, businesses, elected officials, everyone we can.”
The team, under the direction of teacher Tara Kelly, consists of students from the Advanced Placement government class.
It captured the state championship debating constitutional issues, including federalism, or how the federal and state governments share power, how the laws were interpreted through the nation’s history, and how the issues apply in contemporary times.
“Finishing first in all of New York state is really cool in a state of about 19 million people,” Gootnick said. “Especially when you consider we are a large, community school. We don’t screen students. You don’t have to take a test to apply like some other high schools in the city. We don’t turn anyone away.
“And this is a state championship at the highest academic level,” he said.
Gootnick said in the past that elected officials such as Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) have been generous in their support of such programs, though Gov. Cuomo has kept a tight clamp on such discretionary legislative allocations in recent years.
The city’s Department of Education did not respond to requests for comment on the possible availability of funding.
Their deadline is March 15. Those wishing to donate may send contributions to the school at 67-01 110th St., Forest Hills, NY 11375, or call (718) 268-3137.