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'We The People' students to witness naturalization ceremony

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As part of a three-day program that includes state finals for a civics competition that the Indiana Bar Foundation oversees, students will witness a naturalization ceremony this evening in downtown Indianapolis.

Students from around the state who have been studying the U.S. Constitution this semester traveled to Indianapolis for the We The People mock congressional hearings competition. The competition for high school students started Sunday and wraps up today; the middle school portion of the competition takes place Tuesday.

As part of the high school competition’s closing ceremony and awards presentation, which begins at 5:15 p.m. today, students will witness about 40 immigrants from 22 different countries become U.S. citizens. U.S. District Judge Larry J. McKinney will officiate at Union Station in Indianapolis, where the competition has been taking place.

“These students are really just learning to become citizens themselves,” said Erin Braun, state director for We The People, in a statement. “This is their first time studying the Constitution and their rights and responsibilities. Witnessing the naturalization ceremony will help them understand what a privilege it is to be an American citizen.”

For the mock congressional hearings, teams play the role of expert witnesses on topics that are based on six units of study. Panels of judges, often including lawyers and other members of the legal community, play the part of congressional representatives and score the students on a variety of factors.

Following this month’s competition, the winning team will represent Indiana in Washington, D.C., at the national competition in April 2011. Since the program moved to the IBF, the winner of the Indiana finals has placed in the top 10 five of the last six years. The winner of Indiana’s competition in December 2009, a team from Munster High School, placed eighth in the nation in April.

Congress will fund the We The People curriculum for any school that would like to participate. For the last few years, the IBF budgeted for three dedicated staff members to help teachers and volunteers as needed, as well as organize institutes about the program for new and returning teachers and help with competitions on the local and state level.

Earlier this year, the IBF announced it would restructure its We The People program to comprise one dedicated IBF staff member with assistance from other staff as needed. As a result, starting next year, volunteers will be expected to take on more responsibility, and the IBF staff will focus efforts more on experienced teachers as opposed to cultivating new teachers. The IBF is also seeking volunteers to prepare the Indiana team for the national competition and to work with schools in their congressional districts leading up to next year’s regional and state finals.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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