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Q&A with 2015 “We the People” Judges, Alumni

Danielle-AtchisonDanielle Atchison is a business immigration attorney at Mdivani Corporate Immigration Law Firm in Overland Park, Kansas, and a member of The Missouri Bar. In addition to her areas of practice, she works to obtain legal immigration status for immigrant women and children survivors of domestic violence and other crimes through U-Visas and VAWA petitions as part of the firm’s pro bono efforts.

1. What impresses you the most about the “We the People” program?
After having participated in the program and then going to law school, I am totally impressed by the caliber of the questions asked and answered by the students. The questions are borderline law school/bar exam questions. They really do delve into the nuts and bolts of the Constitution and require the student to research and do some critical thinking.

2. What do you believe students gain by competing in the “We the People” program?
I am not sure what all students gain from this experience. I know that I gained a great amount of confidence after coming out victorious. I know that I gained a greater understanding of certain parts of the Constitution. Because the questions are so pointed, they allow the student to dig deeper into a specific part of the Constitution that maybe their teacher did not have time to cover during regular class time.

3. As a “We the People” alumnus, please tell us why you continue your involvement in the program.
I am a “We the People” alumnus and I continue my involvement because I really enjoyed the group setting and the competition aspect. As my previous blog post discusses, it really was a chance for me to show myself that I was capable of the research, writing and analytical thinking required to answer the questions.

 

Jason PaulsmeyerJason Paulsmeyer, a member of the 2014-2015 Missouri Bar Board of Governors, is the immediate past chair of The Missouri Bar Young Lawyers’ Section and president of the Cole County Bar Association. Graduated from the University of Missouri School Of Law, he is now an attorney with the Public School and Education Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri in Jefferson City.

1. How long have you judged “We the People”?
I started judging seven or eight years ago and that was my introduction to the program. I was very impressed with it, got on board and have been judging ever since.

2. What impresses you the most about the competition?
Without a doubt, the most impressive thing is the kids and the dedication that they set forth studying all these constitutional issues, civic educational issues, and also the dedication of the teachers and the fact that we have the same group of teachers who show up year after year.

3. For those who haven’t seen “We the People” in person, what is the one thing that you think they should know about the competition?
I think the one thing that we should take away from this competition is that the future of our country is in great hands. These students are intelligent and well-spoken, and they have a fantastic grasp of both law and the state of our society in general. Some may have positions that you disagree with, but their ability to analyze the topics at hand and go through a step-by-step process, take a look at how the constitution applies, how the law applies, and how our constitution has been evolving is very eye opening and refreshing.

 

charles_hinderliterCharles Hinderliter, a member of the Advisory Committee on Citizenship Education of The Missouri Bar, is an alumnus of the “We the People” program. He is the manager advocacy outreach at St. Louis Regional Chamber.

1. As an alumnus of the program, could you talk about your experience as a student?
I competed in 1996-1997 school year, the first year Westminster Christian Academy competed in the program. It was an incredible experience to date, hearing that we won, standing in the lobby of the Capital Plaza, is an indelible memory. It was one where we worked incredibly hard and learned exceptionally, not only about the constitution content, but also about ourselves, about working in a group, about research, about public speaking and so many soft skills in addition to the actual contest itself.

2. Now you give back every year as a judge. What keeps you motivated? What keeps you committed to the program?
I have been involved in this program literally about half of my life. I have been involved all but one or two years since I graduated. As a coach, as a mentor institute, as a judge, a district coordinator, this is something that awakens the passion and sets the course of my career. But, honestly, what I think is the coolest is I have a lot of friends who went through the programming, including my wife, who did not necessarily follow the same path in terms of career, but who are now all inform voters. So, whether it’s the biologist, or the waitress, or the social media person, they are all impacted by the course, and they are now all informed and active citizens.

3. As a judge, what do you gain on an annual basis from the program?
I teach and I recently was working on political campaigns. So, occasionally, I may be depressed by the state of the American voters, and this program is one of those things that give me hope that there are people that are going to be good, engaged citizens, that are going to display civics virtue and informed judgment about public policy. It’s just absolutely fascinating and exciting to interact with the students and also be able to interact with the fellow judges. It is the highlight of our year.

 

Click here to learn more about the “We the People” program. Also, read the latest stories about the 2015 “We the People” competition:

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