Kentucky Court of Justice
Highlands High School is state We the People champ for 7th straight year
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- For the seventh consecutive year, Highlands High School in Fort Thomas has won the state championship in the We the People … The Citizen and the Constitution civic education competition. The Highlands High team prevailed over two other high schools at the competition Jan. 24 in Lexington to earn the honor of competing for the national title in Arlington, Va., and potentially Washington, D.C., from April 30-May 2.
Ohio County High School from Hartford was the runner-up in the competition for the seventh year in a row. A team from Owen County High School in Owenton also competed and a team from Chandler’s Elementary School in Russellville participated as a showcase team.
We the People … The Citizen and the Constitution is a nationally acclaimed civic education program that focuses on the history and philosophy of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. In competition, high school teams participate in mock congressional hearings that require them to use their understanding of constitutional principles to defend positions on historical and contemporary issues. The Kentucky Court of Justice and the Center for Civic Education in California are co-sponsors of We the People for Kentucky. The Administrative Office of the Courts, the operational arm of the Kentucky Court of Justice, administers the program on the state level.
“Every time I participate in the We the People program, I leave so encouraged,” said Deputy Chief Justice Mary C. Noble of the Supreme Court of Kentucky. “These students work very hard to gain understanding of their government while having friendly competition and fun. This requires a lot of their time and involves some fairly complex materials. Yet, as I told them, the reward is that they are some of the best educated people in Kentucky regarding how our government works because of their participation in this program.”
Justice Noble and Justice Bill Cunningham were guest speakers at the event. Justice Noble also presented trophies and awards at a banquet after the competition along with Deborah Williamson, executive officer of the AOC Department of Court Services and state coordinator for Center for Civic Education programs, and Jacindia Wells, an AOC special project coordinator. Justice Cunningham served as a competition judge. Justice Noble previously served as a competition judge.
Highlands’ winning team members are Allen Deckert, Jack Donelan, Sarah Eichelberger, Lauren Harrett, Christian Heck, Josh Lang, Carrie Laskey, Will Modrall, Olivia Otto, Bennett Parker, Mitchell Payne, Danielle Robinette, Lindsey Scaggs and Jake Weyer. In individual awards, the team selected Lang as its Best Overall and Best Presenter and Robinette as its Best Researcher. The team’s teacher/coach is Megan Boimann-Hennies.
At the national competition, the team will participate in mock congressional hearings April 30-May 1 in Virginia. The 10 teams with the highest cumulative scores after those two days advance to the finals on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on May 2.
Members of the runner-up team from Ohio County High School are Katlin Aull, Jessika Black, Charles Bongiovanni, Leslie Chinn, Danielle DeWitt, Josh Henderson, Ashley Hughes, Jacob Lindsey, Warren Maddox, Hannah Mosgrove, Ruth Sanchez, Andrea Singleton, Sarah Taylor and Taylor Whitaker. In individual awards, the team chose Bongiovanni as its Best Overall and Best Researcher and Chinn and Maddox (tie) for the Best Presenter award. The team’s teacher/coach is Hillary Wise.
Owen County team members are J. J. Adams, Tony Agazul, Adam Bailey, Blake Chancery, Mattie Cook, Rianna Gayheart, Avery Gover, Gray Grishom, Katie Haines, Victoria Howard, Shelby Ogden, Derek Olberding, Amber Patton, Brandy Rexroat, Zach Ripy, Josie Sizemore, Stephanie Skirvin, Lita Swigert, Dakoda Trenary and Ashley Williams. In individual awards, the team selected Grishom as its Best Overall and Best Presenter and Cook as its Best Researcher. The team’s teacher/coach is Kevin Webster and its assistant coach is Kelli Storm.
The team from Chandler’s Elementary participated as a non-competitive, showcase team. The state competition is for high schools only. The Chandler’s Elementary team members are Shyanne Box, Dillon Brown, Nick Brown, Trevor Brown, Tanner Chapman, Rachel Cunningham, Paul Michael Fritsch, Cody Goodman, Maggie Hines, Austin Hyde, Ryan Law, Corey Mimbs, Lucas Montogomery, Anthony Oberhausen, Kara Parker, Tyler Pendly, Beth Powell, Luke Woodall and Kalin Yonts. In individual awards, the team selected Chapman as its Best Overall, Chapman and Hines (tie) for the Best Presenter award and Yonts as its Best Researcher. The team’s teacher/coach is Wendy Decker. The team is comprised of students in the sixth-eighth grades.
Dr. Janna R. Pathi, who helped judge the competition, said participating in the We the People program is a rewarding experience for the students and judges. Pathi, who is the chief medical officer for Ohio County Hospital, has been involved with We the People for the past 10 years.
“I am constantly impressed with the bright young minds in this competition and appreciate the opportunity to hear from them,” he said. “It is reassuring to know that young men and women work very hard to educate themselves to become better citizens. We the People should be a required course for every high school student. Knowledge and understanding of our constitution and rights are important for defending, protecting and preserving our beloved constitution. Otherwise we become vulnerable to assaults on our freedom.
“The preparation for the We the People competition is intense for the teams. I see the disappointment in students when they lose. But I know from experience that the students who participate in this program and the competition are more confident and successful in their lives.”
In addition to Justice Cunningham and Dr. Pathi, judges for this year’s competition were Kentucky Bar Association President Bruce Davis; Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson; Patrick Keal, special assistant to Secretary of State Trey Grayson; State Rep. Adam Koenig, who represents Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties; Campbell County District Court Judge Gregory T. Popovich; Senior Judge Marc I. Rosen; Buck Ryan, associate professor of journalism for the University of Kentucky; Malana S. Salyer, civics education coordinator for the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville; Susan Stokley Clary, clerk of the Supreme Court of Kentucky; Circuit Court Judge David A. Tapp, who serves Lincoln, Pulaski and Rockcastle counties; AOC personnel; and, from the Kentucky Department of Education, Suzann Shaver, science consultant; Robert Duncan, arts and humanities consultant; Greg Finkbonner, gifted and talented consultant; and Shelda Hale, English language learners consultant.
We the People … The Citizen and the Constitution
After completing a semester-long course using We the People textbooks, a class may choose to compete as a team in mock congressional hearings on the district and state levels. An entire class must compete. The class, working in teams, prepares statements and uses them to testify before a panel of community representatives (competition judges) who act as congressional committee members. The class is divided into teams of three to five students each, with each team making one of six presentations. Students then answer questions posed by the committee members. The format requires them to use their understanding of constitutional principles to defend positions on historical and contemporary issues. The competition judges independently score the performances in each presentation. The high school with the highest overall score for all six presentations is declared the winner. The student teams are judged on understanding the concept, constitutional application, reasoning, supporting evidence, responsiveness and participation.
The AOC has participated with the We the People program for 21 years and had 18 state championship hearings. We the People is one of the many youth-related programs offered through the Division of Law Related Education at the AOC in Frankfort.
The We the People program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education through an act of Congress and administered by the Center for Civic Education on the national level.
“I appreciate the effort Deborah Williamson, her staff, the congressional district coordinators and all of the volunteer judges made to ensure a quality competition for the Kentucky high school students,” said Robert Leming, national director of the We the People … The Citizen and the Constitution program. “I especially appreciate the active role the Kentucky courts play to support the program in Kentucky. In addition, the time and effort that teachers and students have devoted to the study of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights always amazes me. It is heartening to know that these young people are our future active citizens and leaders.”
Administrative Office of the Courts
The AOC in Frankfort is the operations arm for the state court system. The AOC supports the activities of nearly 3,600 court system employees and 403 elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks. As the fiscal agent for the state court system, the AOC executes the Judicial Branch budget.