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"We the Students" competition helps UCPS students become better citizens

Jenna Collins created a video campaign to win the title of Senator and lead a team of 8th grade students at the "We the Students" competition.

How do you make middle and high school students better-informed decision makers and citizens? This is the challenge that one UCPS competition aims to address.

The competition, called “We the Students,” was held recently at Wingate University and involved almost 200 Union County Public Schools middle and high school students. In its third year, this year’s event was opened to middle school students.

“It’s all about the constitution and citizenship and how it relates to us everyday as US citizens,” said event coordinator Bryan Rudolph, a Forest Hills High School teacher.

Students sit on a panel of six and respond to various questions, such as, “Using the Declaration of Independence as your source, in your own words, describe the principles of good government and state if those principals are valid today.”

Rudolph said the competition is very cerebral. “Not only do you have to know and understand your content involving citizenship and the constitution, but you also have to master it.”

Students participated from Forest Hills High, Central Academy of Technology and Arts, Marvin Ridge Middle School and Sun Valley Middle Schools. There were two teams from Forest Hills (called Team One and Team Two.)

“I think the experience of competing and presenting on a panel before complete strangers, meeting that fear and anxiety of having to present before a panel of judges, will help them develop skills that will take them a long way when they go to college and the workforce,” Rudolph said.

“I thought this was really fun to do this,” said Julia Herring, 13, an eighth grader at Marvin Ridge Middle School. “It was a really good learning experience for me. I appreciated the opportunity to compete and wish I could do thingslike this more often because I’m planning to go into law and hopefully, the Senate some day.”

Julia said that in her social studies classes, she learns a lot, but in this type of competition, she felt students learn so much more. “I learned more about the Declaration (of Independence) than I could ever have imagined. I learned the differences between freedom and liberty and equality. We also learned about some important events in history.”

Matthew Polk, 15, a 10th grader at Forest Hills High School, said preparing for the competition was an excellent team-building exercise. “It’s really fun because we get to experience new things and work on our presenting skills, and we have fun with it. We all come together as a group. It’s a lot of work and very time consuming, but well worth it.
Students are judged on how well they work together and respond to each question as a team.

Rudolph said the event was a success. “I couldn’t be more pleased. I’ve been very fortunate in having very good people to work with.”

As a special treat, students were able to meet with Thomas Thacker, the chief of staff and district director for US Congressman Larry Kissell.

There are two levels of competition, middle school and high school. Within each level there are six units, but there is also an overall winner to each level. Marvin Ridge Middle School won the middle school competition, while Forest Hills High School Team Two won the high school competition.

The names of the students in the Marvin Ridge Middle School team are Christian Beach, Jenna Collins, Spencer Fiedor, Megan Gallagher, Julia Herring, Radhika Jagani, Maedini Jayaprakash, Abby Joselyn, Leah Kresser, Brian Lee, AvanishMadhavaram, Papa Odita-Honnah, Nicole Renwick, Brendan Spellman, Jackson Tunstall, Aaron Evans, Carri Devens, Jackson Helms, Sam Horn, Camden Porta, Eilis Finn, Anne Landau, Branson Bond, TJ Johnson, Matt Miller, Lindsay Waldrep, Ryan McMillan, Kevin Dobos, Austin Zobel, Jack Owens, Emily Anderson, Charlie Eaton, Connor Paul, and Elijah Devaux.

The funding for the event was provided by the North Carolina Bar Association’s Law Related Education and the North Carolina We the People director Diane Wright.

Written by: Deb Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Jan 10, 2012 by Brita Mann

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