Following the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution mock congressional hearing state finals, which took place Dec. 12-13 for high school students and Dec. 14 for middle school students, organizers announced that a team from Munster High School will represent Indiana at the national competition held in Washington, D.C., in April 2011.
A team from Munster High School also won the Indiana competition in December 2009, and that team placed eighth in the nation in 2010. Since the program moved to the Indiana Bar Foundation, the winner of the Indiana finals has placed in the top 10 during five of the last six years.
Prior to learning the winner on Dec. 13, students witnessed about 40 immigrants from 22 different countries become U.S. citizens. U.S. District Judge Larry J. McKinney officiated at Union Station in Indianapolis, where the competition took place. This was the first year a naturalization ceremony was included in the closing ceremony for the high school competition.
During 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.
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.
In related news, Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Paul D. Mathias received the Indiana Bar Foundation’s William G. Baker Award Dec. 12 for his work with the We the People program at the state level and in the 3rd Congressional District in Northeast Indiana. He started working with We the People when it began in 1987 and annually recruits volunteer attorneys and civic leaders to serve as judges for the 3rd Congressional District competition.
Rehearing "We the People team 8th in nation" IL May 12-25-2010