Fairfield Student Heads to National Civics Bee Finals

Issues & Policies

Summer vacation is off to a pretty good start for Faizan Seyal. 

After completing eighth grade at Tomlinson Middle School in Fairfield, Seyal became the first winner of the National Civics Bee Connecticut State Finals.

“It’s a feeling of relief,” he said after the June 18 competition at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. “I feel really great and happy that I won this.” 

Seyal narrowly beat fellow Tomlinson student Aarav Pardeep Sahu, Torrington Middle School’s Avery Mazzacane, Adriana Bueno from the Academic Academy at Wallace Middle School in Waterbury, and Brooklyn School of Inquiry’s Rachel Braun. 

State Finals

The National Civics Bee is an annual competition aimed at improving civics education and literacy among middle school students, their families, and communities.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Civic Trust, organizer of the National Civics Bee, named CBIA as an official partner to host four regional bees and the Connecticut State Finals in 2024.

“It’s you students who are now finding your voice who will be leading our great state in the not so distant future,” CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima told the students.

“You’ll be tasked with solving problems, lifting your communities, and creating jobs for the generations to come.”

The students all reached the state final after submitting essays tackling a problem in their communities, and competing in regional bees hosted by the Bridgeport, Middlesex, and Waterbury chambers of commerce.

Close Competition

The state final consisted of three different rounds. 

Rounds one and two featured multiple choice questions, quizzing the students on their knowledge of civics and the U.S. Constitution.

“The fact that these kids know these questions, it gives you so much hope,” said NBC Connecticut anchor Mike Hydeck, who was the competition’s master of ceremonies. 

Adriana Bueno and her fellow competitors answer questions during the quiz rounds of the Civics Bee.

“We’re talking about kids in sixth and seventh grade who can answer questions about the Constitution. It helps you feel hopeful about society moving forward.”

In the third round, they delivered a three-minute pitch based on their original essay. 

The students’ topics ranged from reducing gun violence and improving community and police relationships to lowering suicide rates, combating hate speech, and helping immigrants overcome language barriers and learn about new cultures.

“We have to put some trust in each other to start growing again,” Bueno said during her presentation on improving community and police relationships.

Engaging, Investing in Community

“You’re at the heart of issues from mental health, public safety, discrimination that our society is dealing with,” Glendowlyn Thames, Amazon’s head of economic development for Connecticut and New York, told the students. 

“It’s so important and paramount that all of us as participants and active participants, engage in our society because that’s what makes our communities work.”

The competition was judged by former governor M. Jodi Rell, former secretary of state Denise Merrill, and Travelers head of civic engagement Janice Brunner. 

“I’m just really excited that I’m going to compete in the nationals,” said Faizan Seyal, pictured with his family and NBC’s Mike Hydeck.

“It makes our community stronger, it makes our economy stronger, and these kids that were here today are our future, and we want to invest in them,” Brunner said.

With his victory, Seyal went home with a cash prize of $1,000. He also secured a spot in the National Civics Bee, Nov. 12 in Washington, D.C. 

“I’m very excited, a little nervous, but mostly excited,” he said. 

“It’s a great opportunity for me to do this. I’m just really excited that I’m going to compete in the nationals.”

Worthwhile Experience

Sahu took the second place prize of $750 and Mazzacane placed third, winning $500.

Sahu said the event sparked a new interest in the importance of civics.

“If you understand this, this helps you, it guides you to understanding your surroundings better,” he said.

“I’ve learned the impact that someone can make on their community.”

Civics Bee finalist Rachel Braun

And even though they came up a little short, the other competitors said the experience was worth it. 

“I’ve become more involved in my community and bringing awareness to issues is very important because it can help strengthen communities as a whole and bring them together more,” said Mazzacane.

“I’ve learned the impact that someone can make on their community,” added Braun. “And I learned my ability to speak out.”

The National Civics Bee Connecticut State Final was made possible through the generous support of Travelers, Dalio Foundation Inc., and Amazon, with additional support from the Connecticut State Department of Education, Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, Connecticut Education Association, Connecticut Democracy Center, Bridgeport Regional Business Council, Waterbury Chamber of Commerce, and Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay Connected with CBIA News Digests

The latest news and information delivered directly to your inbox.