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The Missouri Bar hosts 2016 ‘We the People’ contest for high schoolers

Nixa High School team

Nixa High School wins state title; Joplin High School and Westminster Christian Academy advance to national competition

 JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Nearly 50 students representing three Missouri high schools today competed in The Missouri Bar-sponsored “We the People” statewide simulated congressional hearings held at The Missouri Bar Center in Jefferson City. Nixa High School won the statewide competition while both Joplin High School and Westminster Christian Academy of St. Louis were selected to advance to the national “We the People” competition to be held April 22-25, in Washington, D.C.

 “We the People” is a nationally acclaimed civic education program from the Center for Civic Education helping students understand the history, philosophies and evolution of our constitutional government. Upon completion of the classroom study, students compete in a form of simulated congressional hearings.

 Students demonstrated their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and our system of government in mock hearings, where they discussed and answered questions about the Constitution and its implications on current law. In a style modeled after congressional hearings, students debated everything from the use of military force, to the role of juries in a system of limited government, to what drives democracy for the state finals of We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution.

To prepare for the competition – which included a dozen 20-minute sessions of discourse – students studied court cases, past decisions and current events in both the classroom and after school hours.

 “I like that you’re able to look at the case law, look at the history, but then also apply it to modern legal situations and cases,” said Barrett Young, a senior at Nixa High School. “I really like the ability to research constitutional law and to discuss it in a forum like this.”

 Joplin High School senior Megan Martucci agreed. “It’s really fun. It’s really educational,” Martucci said. “You learn about parts of government you didn’t even know existed. You learn a lot about why things are the way they are.”

 Claire Rebbe also enjoyed the opportunity to study more about our constitutional system. “We talked with a bunch of lawyers about the process of voir dire and all of the important things that go into the jury,” the Westminster Christian Academy senior said. “It was a lot of reaching out to different types of people and seeing what their different takes on it was.”

 More than 20 lawyers, educators and community leaders volunteered to serve as judges for the event, scoring students’ performances based on constitutional application, reasoning, and supporting evidence, among other criteria.

 “You ask the kids a question, and seeing them answer in such an intelligent and rational way, it just gives you a feeling like our young people are really tuned into civics and current events,” said Jason Rew, a lawyer with Oswald Roam Rew & Fry in Blue Springs, member of The Missouri Bar Board of Governors and returning “We the People” judge. “This is a springboard to a bright future for them and for The Missouri Bar.”

 Because Nixa High School does not participate in the program as part of an official classroom activity, it is not eligible for competition at the national level. As a result, both Joplin High School and Westminster Christian Academy will represent Missouri in the national competition.

 The Missouri Bar Citizenship Education Program has served as the state coordinator for the program since 1999. Until 2011, the program was funded by Congress. The program has continued in Missouri thanks to the past support of the Missouri Bar Foundation and Missouri Young Lawyers’ Section. The Missouri Bar Young Lawyers’ Section generously funded the 2016 event by covering the cost of transportation, lodging and food for all participants.

 Special guests at the state competition included 26 teachers who have been chosen to participate in a new program from the Center for Civic Education – the James Madison Legacy Project. The Missouri Bar is the state coordinator for the project which provides professional development for these teachers from across the state.

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.

 For more photos of the event, please  click here.

 Students competing included:

 From Nixa High School: Karina Bratkov, Madalyn Foley, Jarrod Griffin, Abby Harden, Zac Smith, Marina Tallman, and Barratt Young. Coached by Greg Walker.

 From Joplin High School: Taran Agustosky, Anum Ahmed, Amanda Amodeo, Asa Beckham, Reid Brown, Noah Chotrow, Alexander Coffin, William Henness, Megan Hickey, Kylie Howerton, Michaela Koval, Sarah Lundstrum, Megan Martucci, Stella Ndauwa, Jennifer Nguyen, Gil Salgado, Jonathan Sparlin, Savannah Spencer, and Vivian Vu. Coached by Will Keczkemethy.

 From Westminster Christian Academy: Jack Andrews, Sabrina Bingham, Morgan Brasier, Caleb Buffa, Mason Davitt, Nathan Duke, Katherine Galvin, Tom Graham, Harrison Greer, Isabel Guariglia, Davis Haeusser, Morgan Henry, Caroline Holden, Zach Hughes, Avery Iven, Joi Malloyd, Sarah Ragsdale, Claire Rebbe, Matt Rush, Kendra Slater, and Lauren Stoner. Coached by Ken Boesch.

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