PHS students show off knowledge of U.S. Constitution

PELHAM – Twenty-two Pelham High School students in the Law Academy were among 150 students statewide who competed in the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution state competition on Jan. 13 at the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham.

The students qualified to compete in the state competition in December 2016.

During the competition, the students demonstrated their knowledge of the Constitution before a simulated congressional hearing committee consisting of constitutional scholars, lawyers, government leaders and civic educators who judged the classes’ performances.

Each class was divided into six groups, corresponding with the units in the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution text. Each group made a four-minute presentation, which was followed by six minutes of questioning by judges probing students on their depth of understanding, according to a news release from the executive director of the program.

The winner at the state competition advanced to the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution National Finals, April 22 though April 24, in Washington, D.C. Pelham placed fourth in the competition.

Law Academy teacher Karen Varner said this was the first time PHS participated in the program. Varner said she plans to attend the national finals in April to watch how it’s done.

“The judges told us that we were one of the best first-year teams that they’ve ever seen,” Varner said.

Varner said PHS will participate in the program again next year. However, once a student competes once, they can’t participate again. This means that Varner will be taking a whole new team to the competition next school year.

PHS senior Alex Rogers, a second-year Law Academy student, said the competition was nerve wracking, but fun overall.

“I really enjoyed the whole process,” he said. “We got our questions at the beginning of the year and spent a lot of time breaking down the question and looking up Supreme Court cases to back up our argument. It’s something I’d like to continue, maybe even pursue a career in politics – but I’m not completely sure yet.”

“We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution is a premier academic competition for high school students,” said Alan Stevens, state coordinator and the executive director of the Alabama Center for Law and Civic Education, in the news release. “These students have logged in early morning, late night, and weekend study sessions to reach the state finals. The judges are always impressed with the students’ thorough knowledge of the Constitution and their ability to apply its principles to contemporary issues.”

Stevens said the primary goal of the program, which helps students understand the history and principles of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, is to promote civic competence and responsibility among the nation’s elementary and secondary students.

Implemented nationwide in upper elementary, middle, and high schools, the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution program has reached more than 32 million students and 98,000 teachers since its inception in 1987.