Students from 18 area school districts had an opportunity to witness firsthand a historical moment in Jamestown's history.
On Friday, nearly 2,000 students congregated at the Robert H. Jackson Center to hear a speech from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, with even more participating via live Internet feeds.
The center arranged for SUNY Buffalo and BOCES to stream live coverage of the chief justice's address, which took place at 10 a.m. According to Greg Peterson, Jackson Center co-founder and board member, the center did this in an effort to take a proactive approach toward providing education for students.
Students arrive for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ speech at the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown on Friday morning.
P-J photo by Scott Shelters
"History comes to life for students if they have a chance to get actively involved," he said. "We want to encourage them to examine and think about the world around them and, at the same time, to understand the value of preserving our past. Chief Justice Roberts' visit will provide an extraordinary opportunity for students to personally experience local and national history in the making-an opportunity they will remember for a long time to come."
While most of the students attending the address were from Jamestown and Chautauqua County, the center received inquiries from school districts as far away as Rochester and Geneseo about bussing students to the event.
James Johnson, president and CEO of the Jackson Center, illustrated the importance of helping students to understand America's political past and its effect on modern day life by referencing a recent Newsweek survey, which found that 65 percent of Americans do not know what happened at the Constitutional Convention.
"Given that the U.S. Constitution is the most important document ever crafted in American history, and the one document that affects every single citizen within the United States every single day, that is a shocking statistic," he said.
For faculty and staff of the participating school districts, the opportunity to see a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is not something to be understated.
"This is just a wonderful opportunity, not only for the city of Jamestown, but also for our students," said Josh Liddell, secondary school principal at Chautauqua Lake Central School. "We sent basically all of our juniors and seniors; our U.S. history classes and our social studies 12 class. For all the (Chautauqua Lake) students here, the teachers took some time going over who Mr. Roberts is and where he came from."
After the event, he added: "Chief Justice Roberts' visit was a great opportunity for our students to hear directly from one of our country's most prominent judicial figures."
Jason Delcamp, high school principal at Brocton Central School, said that his students were happy just to participate in the event.
"When (the center) announced that they were going to be allowing schools to come over and participate in this event, I brought it back to the social studies department. The kids were ecstatic about it, and I would say almost all of our juniors and seniors are here today to watch this. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we're excited about it."
"I know that our social studies teacher, who teaches government and economics, said this was a great opportunity because it tied into a lot of the civics aspects of what she's discussing with the students," he added.
Jay Sirianni, high school government teacher at Southwestern Central School, iterated the importance of the event.
"I don't think people realize how big of a deal this is. This guy is the chief justice of the Supreme Court. He's the face of the Supreme Court, and it's pretty amazing that he's came down here to Jamestown to address us," he said. "This is part of the curriculum that we teach in the classroom, and now (the students) can see how it's applied to real life and how it really works. To hear him come down and address not just the students, but the community, I think it really emphasizes the importance of our three branches of government."
For Corey Markham, AP government and global history teacher at Falconer Central School, the most important thing about the event was his students got to see a Supreme Court chief justice.
"The AP kids know the importance here, we don't have to teach them why he's important," he said. "The big thing is that this gives kids the opportunity to see somebody very important in their lifetime. It's all about the experience. If they take nothing back from the speech, it's fine. They saw a Supreme Court justice, and they can remember it for the rest of their lives."
The experience itself was not lost on those students who grasped the gravity of the event.
"This just really interests me because I know it's a once in a lifetime opportunity to see him, and even though I won't get to talk to him personally, just hearing him speak is a really cool thing," said Charity Ludwig, a Chautauqua Lake junior.
"I just think this a great opportunity because, being in a small town, you don't really get in contact with people like this. I'm just really glad to be here," said Luciana Sena, a Chautauqua Lake senior.
Hannes Baur, a foreign exchange student and senior at Brocton, discussed his interest in seeing living history.
"It's awesome to get to see these people here," he said. "I watch the news and all that, and it's just nice to see all that stuff and all those people here. It's amazing."
Skye Smith, a Southwestern senior, was also grateful for the opportunity to see Roberts.
"For me personally, just to see any chief justice of the Supreme Court is just so unbelievable, because they're so key to our government," said Smith. "Around here, you don't get too much connection to what's going on in (Washington), D.C., and, honestly, I'm just really happy to hear him speak and be involved with such a national figure."