Matthew McNey, 21, was born in Columbia, MD; however, he was raised in College Park, Burtonsville and Laurel. As a product of the American Dream he was instilled with strong religious convictions, hard work and dedication. He was not born into a rich family; his was a family best characterized as middle class, a family battling with drug addiction and alcoholism. Matthew goes to school and works full time with plans to go to Harvard Law and Harvard Business School to earn a JD and MBA, and to become a corporate attorney. He has been involved in politics since he was 13. He joined the Democratic Party when he was 16, and eventually became the President of the Maryland Federation of College Democrats.
Amanda Tesarek, 19, Best College Short Film Winner, is from Superior, Wisconsin, and attends Columbia University in New York City. She is currently a sophomore, and plans to pursue a double major in biochemistry and political science and a minor in Arabic language. Her extracurricular activities have included student government, newspaper, and improvisational comedy. Amanda was especially inspired to enter this contest after attending the American Legion Auxiliary’s Girls State and Girls Nation programs, which taught her the importance of patriotism and appreciating those who serve in the armed forces.
Juliette has been able to learn from her mother’s power to prevail while sharing many of the same life interests. Juliette wrote the bestselling book Our Constitution Rocks!(HarpersCollins/Zondervan) at age 12. Our Constitution Rocks, currently in its second printing with over 50,000 copies sold, is endorsed by Former First Ladies Laura and Barbara Bush, President Clinton’s White House Counsel Jack Quinn, constitutional scholars, and many other political leaders of both parties. At age 16, Juliette Turner’s second book was published: Our Presidents Rock! (HarpersCollins/Zondervan) Our Presidents Rock brings American presidents to life for America’s future generation —using fun anecdotes and an engaging sense of humor to inspire young Americans to learn about leadership and history. Juliette’s new novel, That’s Not Hay In My Hair, will hit the shelves March 8, 2016 (Zondervan).
Juliette Turner is the National Youth Director of Constituting America, a group founded by her mother and co-chaired with Cathy Gillespie that is dedicated to educating Americans about the founding documents. Juliette reaches youth across America with her engaging books, motivational speeches, entertaining videos and media interviews. Juliette was the youngest author ever to speak at Mt. Vernon’s George Washington Symposium, and was recently one of four featured authors at the Dallas Celebration of Reading, along with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Mark Shriver and ABC’s Byron Pitts.
As a dynamic duo, the Turners have been speaking to groups around the country, mixing pop culture and American history to engage apathetic citizens to get engaged. Beyond their dedication to the country, the Turners love spending time with each other; Juliette enjoys farming with Janine on the longhorn cattle ranch, helping Janine on the set of her recent films, co-recording an album with Janine, attending church with Janine, and working side-by-side on Janine’s radio show.
Austin Dobbs is a remarkable young man whose high school attributes, achieve ments and character mirror those of Turner Maurice Gauntt, Jr.’s. Dobbs was Valedictorian of his graduating class from Quitman High School in Quitman, Texas with a 5.4 grade point average. He was Captain of the football team and Captain of the track team. He received All-District Honors for his positions as wide receiver and defensive back and was named First Team Academic All-State as well as serving as Treasurer and Vice President of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Academically, in addition to being Valedictorian, he was President of the National Honor Society, President of the Debate Club, Student Council Vice-President and Senior Class President. He was a State Qualifying Debater for his junior and senior seasons, deemed as one of the top five debaters in the state of Texas and was the State Silver Gavel winner as 2nd in the State of Texas 2013. He received countless academic and character awards within his community. His church and community ser- vice is astonishing with 775 hours served, which includes Program Director of DASH – Drugs, Alcohol, Safety, and Health.
Dobbs is graduate of Baylor University and is currently serving as an officer in the United States Air Force. He adheres to the principle that to whom much is given, much is required and has dedicated himself to public service. Having been recognized as the inaugural recipient of Turner Maurice Gauntt, Jr Award, Dobbs has sought every day to live the life of service, leadership, and high character of the awards namesake. He has served in key leadership positions throughout college and in the military and has been a member of the Youth Advisory Board since its inception
Laney Kraus-Taddeo, 17, Best High School Short Film Winner, lives in Park Ridge, Illinois, and is currently a senior at Maine South High School. She has worked as a professional actress since the age of nine, appearing in both live theater productions and short films. In high school she discovered a love of video and film production and has written, conceptualized, shot, directed and edited numerous short films, and has also directed live sports broadcasts and performing arts presentations. Proud to be this year’s short film winner, Laney is also an award-winning writer and editor with her high school newspaper, is the Boys Varsity Basketball video coordinator, and is active in her community. She will be attending college in the Fall of 2015 and plans on pursuing a double major in film production and theater.
Nic Downs, 20, is from Dana Point, California. He will begin his junior year this fall at Point Loma Nazarene University in Southern California. He loves writing, foreign languages, people, and cultures, and always searches for ways to learn more in these areas. Excelling in Italian and French, he has tutored at Saddleback College and has also worked privately, teaching Italian to missionaries bound for Italy. He has participated in mission trips to Spain, Africa, and the Caribbean, along with family expeditions throughout the world. Over the last few years, Nic has taken a keen interest in politics, and is especially passionate about the Constitution and the issues that threaten its existence. In addition, he recently attended the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Summit in Washington, D.C.
Jewel Gilbert, 20, Best College Speech Winner, is from Easton, Pennsylvania and a Freshman at Muhlenberg College. He is extremely grateful to have had his speech chosen as the Winner of Constituting America. Jewel has three passions: To serve God, play football, and perform with Sing For America. Sing for America is a charitable group founded by the Gilbert family in 2005. Performing up to 80 performances a year, stretching from Memphis to Maine, they do it to show appreciation for the Military families sacrificing so much for us. In 2011, Sing For America evolved as an entity striving to bring light and truth to the community through the arts in many different ways. Sing For America Productions was born, and since has done 8 Broadway style musicals incorporating professional and amateur talent under the slogan “The Arts Are Color Blind.” Out of the 224 cast members involved with SFAP, half of them are minorities. Many of the actors had their very first experience on stage with us. Sing For America has been able to donate over $40,000 to help military families in need by paying rent, heating bills, food, whatever they may need. www.SingForAmerica.com.
Lindsay Culpepper, 11, Best Poem Winner, lives in Maylene, AL, just south of Birmingham. She is a sixth grader at Evangel Classical Christian School, where she enjoys studying science, Latin, and history. In her free time, she likes reading, writing, art, horseback riding, and playing basketball. An animal lover, she has attended Zoo Camp at the Birmingham Zoo each summer for the past four years. She recently started serving in the children’s ministry at her church, assisting with the children’s worship service. In the future she hopes to become a writer, a nature photographer, or a veterinarian.
Anya Ambarish, 10, Best Elementary School Poem Winner, lives in Dulles, Virginia. She goes to Rosa Lee Carter Elementary school and is in the fifth grade. Her favorite subject at school is reading, and she also enjoys science and social studies. She is passionate about poetry, writing, reading, tennis, basketball and ping-pong. Many of her short stories and poems have been published in various books and websites. She aspires to become a lawyer or a writer.
Maryem Bouatlaoui, 10, Best Emblem Winner, is a resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was born in Morocco. Maryem attends Henry W. Lawton Elementary School. She is involved in a lot of afterschool programs like The Choir Club, Patriots Club and Environmental Club. Maryem also enjoys drawing and hopes to become a doctor when she grows up.
Halley is 16 years old, and enjoys history and horses. She was a Best Poem winner in Constituting America’s inaugural year, and won Honorable Mention in Middle School for her song about the Bill of Rights. Halley initiated Constituting America’s Colorado Patriot Club. She lives in Estes Park, Colorado where she participates in 4-H, her youth group “The Huddle,” Rooftop Rodeo and the Estes Park Equestrian Club. An avid rider, she is an IEA team member, owns two quarter horses, and competes in the Colorado Hunter/Jumper Association circuit with her retired off track Thoroughbred, My King.
Courtney Janecka is the best high school song winner for 2020!
Click below to listen to Courtney’s song!