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Students demonstrate constitutional prowess during Missouri Bar competition

More than 75 high school students from across Missouri competed Monday to showcase their civics and government knowledge in The Missouri Bar’s annual We the People and Show Me the Constitution competitions. Joplin South High School qualified to represent Missouri at the We the People national competition in April in Washington, D.C.

During competition, which is styled as a mock congressional hearing, students presented an argument to a team of judges, who, in return, asked questions about the team’s position. Discussion topics included free speech, the presidency, political parties and other timely topics. Judges evaluated the students’ knowledge and understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights and their performances based on constitutional application, reasoning and supporting evidence, among other criteria.

“These students are our next generation of leaders,” said Millie Aulbur, director of Citizenship Education at The Missouri Bar. “They immerse themselves in understanding our nation’s founding document and work together in teams to share their knowledge using critical thinking and public speaking skills.”

At the end of the day, division winning teams took home prize money to benefit civics-centered programs and initiatives in their schools.

Matthew Nguyen, a senior at Central High School in Springfield, was back for a second year of competition. Nguyen’s team discussed the First Amendment and free speech in their arguments. He said the research process exposed him and his team to court cases and judicial opinions that other high schoolers don’t always have an opportunity to learn about in class.

“You really begin to understand the importance of the Constitution,” said Nguyen. “We’re going to be the leaders of the world. If we know our rights and how to protect them, that just advances our democracy and our country further.”

Robert Givens, a student at McCluer South-Berkeley High School in Ferguson, agrees that his peers can benefit from the program. The senior said his team worked on revising their discussion points for six weeks. They placed third in the competition’s Madison division, and Givens hopes underclassmen continue to participate moving forward.

“You definitely want to be aware and try to understand the basic principles of the government and how it affects you,” Givens said.

But the day wasn’t all business. Mia Paladino, a Nixa High School freshman, said that participating in the program has also been an opportunity to make new friends and advance her love of history.

“It gets you more involved,” Paladino said. “The whole process of how it worked, […] digging deep with the questions, I thought that was really cool.”

There were lots of smiles and selfies as winning teams were announced in the afternoon. The following teams placed in the Show Me the Constitution events and received up to $1,000 for their schools to purchase civic education materials:

Jefferson Division

First – Nixa High School
Second – Springfield Central High School
Third – Ste. Genevieve High School

Madison Division

First – Nixa High School
Second – Springfield Central High School
Third – Tie, Ste. Genevieve High School and McCluer South-Berkelev High School

Participating schools included Calvary Lutheran High School, Cole Camp High School, Eugene Cole R-V High School, Joplin South High School, Malta Bend R-V High School, McCluer South-Berkelev High School, Nixa High School, Springfield Central High School, and Ste. Genevieve High School.

The Missouri Bar has coordinated We the People since 1999 in conjunction with the Center for Civic Education and launched Show Me the Constitution in 2015. We the People is a nationally acclaimed civic education program, helping students understand the history, philosophies and evolution of our constitutional government. Upon completion of the classroom study, the students participate in a competition taking the form of simulated congressional hearings.

The Missouri Bar Young Lawyers’ Section funds the statewide hearings which covers the cost of transportation, lodging and food for all of the participants. Lawyers, including several YLS members, served as judges.

“Judging the We the People/Show Me the Constitution Competitions is my favorite time of year,” said Danielle Atchison, a program judge and Missouri lawyer. “I always look forward to meeting the high school students that have worked hard to write about and understand critical concepts regarding our government. This year I was again blown away by the students’ mastery of difficult subjects, including philosophy, constitutionalism and civic virtue.”

The Missouri Bar is a statewide organization that is dedicated to improving the legal profession, the law and the administration of justice for all Missourians. Created in 1944 by order of the Supreme Court of Missouri, it serves all 30,000 of Missouri’s practicing attorneys. To achieve its mission, The Missouri Bar provides a wide range of services and resources to its members, as well as the media, educators and the citizens of Missouri. To learn more about The Missouri Bar, visit MoBar.org and MissouriLawyersHelp.org.

Click here to learn more about the Missouri Bar’s Citizenship Education Program.

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