Westminster Christian Academy and Nixa High School students win state Constitution championships, money for schools

Westminster Christian Academy, We the People 2016-17 winner

More than 70 high school students from around the state met Monday in Columbia for The Missouri Bar’s annual We the People and Show Me the Constitution statewide simulated congressional hearing competitions.

Students from Westminster Christian Academy in Town & Country were named state We the People champions. As title holder, they will represent Missouri at the national We the People:  The Citizen and the Constitution competition in Washington D.C. in May 2017.

Nixa High School took first place in the Show Me the Constitution competition, receiving a $1,000 prize to purchase civic education materials for their school. Additionally, Springfield Central High School earned second place in Show Me the Constitution and a $750 prize for materials, while Jefferson R-VII won third and a $500 grant.

Throughout the day, student teams delivered prepared oral commentary on a variety of constitutional issues – from the reach of the First and Fourth Amendments to the limits of government power and the responsibilities that come with being a U.S. citizen. The teams then answered related questions from a panel of judges, who scored the students based on the students’ constitutional application, reasoning, and supporting evidence, among other criteria.

“The kinds of questions asked are based on the philosophical foundations of our government, the Constitution, both historical and the current applications of it, and this year we heard a lot of questions about the fourth amendment issues with iPhones,” said Millie Aulbur, director of citizenship education at The Missouri Bar. “It’s critical that our students understand how their government operates and why it operates the way that it does, and it’s so encouraging to hear these students intelligently talk about the Constitution.”

Whitney Dunn, a first-year judge and risk manager with the Bar Plan in St. Louis, said that she was impressed by the time and research that the students – sometimes after school on their own terms – put into preparing for the event.

“They are so bright,” Dunn said. “They made me feel like, looking back on who I was as a high school student, I really needed to get my stuff together back then because they did a great job,” she added with a laugh.

At the end of the day, regardless of ranking, participants said the event was a positive learning experience for all competitors. For Thomas Frisk, a junior at Arcadia Valley, preparing for competition meant diving deeper into law and learning about specific cases. Frisk aspires to be a lawyer.

“It definitely introduced me to more aspects of constitutional law, like First Amendment right to speech. I’ve read a lot of cases where people were arrested for saying what they wanted to say, then that eventually being turned over by the Supreme Court because them being arrested for that reason is wrong,” Frisk said.

Dunn noted that this early introduction to governmental functions is important.

“In the current political climate, it is really important to not just listen to what’s happening in the government, but to understand what the Constitution says and how that can play into what happens in the government,” Dunn said.

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 Bar Young Lawyers’ Section. The Missouri Bar Young Lawyers’ Section generously funded the 2017 event by covering the cost of transportation, lodging and food for all participants.

Special guests at the state competition included two dozen teachers who have been chosen to participate in a new program, also in conjunction with 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.

In preparation for the competitions, students have been studying constitutional materials in great detail under the guidance of their teachers—many of whom attend the bar’s free professional development events for educators.

Click here to learn more about the event and other Missouri Bar citizenship education programming and here to see photos from the event.

Students from the championship teams include:

From Westminster Christian Academy: Rachel Berry, Sydney Bowden, Chelsea Caplinger, Sammie Davidson, Ethan Davitt, Sydney Driscoll, Erin Galakatos, Cate Hoogstraten, Tiffany Johnson, Emily Kessel, Alex Lawrence, Crhis Moore and Alyssa Shik. Teacher: Ken Boesch.

From Nixa High School: Raegan Allen, Karina Bratkov, Chloe Cash, Cassie Dutton, Amanda Eckels, Madalyn Foley, Heath Fusco, Brendan Fusco, Leila Ismaio, Zach Ismaio, Sophia Jackson, Sloane Lawson, Mark Meads, Spencer Mende and Taylor Steele. Teacher: Greg Walker.


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