Nov 16, 2018 / Project Citizen, We the People
In April of this year, Cheryl Cook-Kallio assumed the mantle of state coordinator for the We the People Programs, including both We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution and We the People: Project Citizen.
“My entire adult life has been about civic engagement,” says Cook-Kallio. She began teaching Project Citizen and We the People at the middle school level in the early nineties before she became a James Madison Fellow, which allowed her to increase her constitutional content knowledge and work with Senator Dianne Feinstein and the federal courts. She eventually moved to teaching at the high school level, specifically to teach a We the People competition class.
“All these things led my former and current students to encourage me to run for public office in 2006. I retired from teaching in 2015 after 39 years. I will never retire from encouraging excellent civic education.”
State and congressional district coordinators are responsible for ensuring that students and teachers throughout the United States have access to sets of We the People textbooks, providing exemplary professional development, and helping classes conduct simulated congressional hearings. Cook-Kallio has both the hands-on experience and enthusiasm for civic education to excel as the California State Coordinator.
“[We the People and Project Citizen] encourage students to learn for the sake of learning. That is a teacher’s dream,” says Cook-Kallio. She sees the programs as a platform for civil discussion that places value on diversity of opinion based on fact, and these principles are essential in the encouragement of participatory democracy. It makes sense, then, that her favorite Founder is James Madison, who “was a pragmatist. If one suggestion didn’t work, he had another. He had a brilliant political mind and little ego. He was someone who learned for the sake of learning.”
Oct 02, 2018 / Alumni, E-news, We the People
Students who compete in simulated congressional hearings as part of the We the People Program bring their everything. They wear matching outfits, bring customized tablecloths, and display stylized name cards. This enthusiasm for the competition comes, in part, from excitement about showing off what they have learned, but also from a passion about skills and knowledge that are applicable outside of the classroom.
“Participating in We the People is when I remember beginning to understand how something I was studying in school translated to work being done in the real world,” says Monica Lee, a We the People alumna. At her September wedding to Daniel Hart, Lee asked for donations to the We the People program. “My immediate and extended family make a concerted effort to seek out opportunities to help other people to make our communities better places, through work at our churches and in our neighborhoods and I wanted to give people an opportunity to do that as part of our wedding celebration.”
As a child, Monica Lee visited Washington, D.C., often with her family. Her father, Dennis Lee, worked as a teacher, volunteered with the We the People program, and served as the Indiana District Coordinator for many years. She participated in the We the People program as an eighth-grader. For Lee, the program fostered in her a deeper understanding of government’s role in the lives of citizens.
She carried this passion for politics on to a career in public service, working as an intern for the 2008 Obama Campaign for President, an intern in the White House in 2009, and a job as a press assistant in the White House Communications Office in 2011. She has been working in political communications as a career ever since.
The We the People program is offered across the country, giving students opportunities to learn about American government through simulated congressional hearings. Volunteer judges ask students questions regarding the Constitution, the Founders, and more, while encouraging students to link history to current-day events. Winners from state competitions qualify to compete at the national level in the National Invitational and the National Finals. These experiences promote a lifelong sense of civic duty and civic engagement in We the People alumni.
As alumna Monica Lee says, “Now more than ever, I think the We the People program is worth people’s time and resources, since it provides at such an important juncture of kids’ education insight into our democracy, which is important regardless of the field of work you go into.”
Are you a We the People program alumni? Get connected with the Center for Civic Education!
Aug 20, 2018 / E-news, We the People
Christopher Cavanaugh, a We the People teacher who taught at Plainfield High School in Indiana in 2018, is one of this year’s Law-Related Education Teachers of the Year! Awarded annually by the American Lawyers Alliance, this award recognizes teachers who have made significant contributions in the area of law-related education and who have developed programs that help students recognize their civic responsibilities.
We the People teacher Christopher Cavanaugh won the ALA's Law-Related Education Teacher of Year Award.
Cavanaugh will be teaching at Bismarck High School in North Dakota this fall. This year’s other winners are Daniel Bachman from Massapequa High School in New York and Catherine Ruffing from Centreville High School in Virginia. Winners were chosen from around the country. On August 3, 2018, the awards ceremony was held at the University Club of Chicago. Although not all of the teachers were able to attend the ceremony, those in attendance spoke eloquently of the civics programs they are continuing to implement in their schools.
Speakers included Andi M. Metzel, president of the Indiana State Bar Association; Charles R. Dunlap, executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation; and Richard E. Garriott, president-elect of the Virginia Bar Association.
For more information about the Law-Related Education Teachers of the Year and the American Lawyers Alliance, check out their website here!
Aug 14, 2018 / E-news, Project Citizen
Seventeen projects in both the traditional and digital formats were submitted for the 2018 Project Citizen National Showcase! Students dealt with a variety of topics from affordable housing to school schedules to HIV prevention, offering public policy solutions after doing extensive research in their communities.
Classes completed four steps in their projects: identifying the problem, proposing alternative solutions, identifying their preferred policy answers, and creating an action plan. Traditional projects display these steps on multi-paneled poster board and are accompanied by research binders. Digital projects sent in their materials organized in a powerpoint presentation.
See this year’s results here.
To find out more about the Project Citizen curriculum, check out the Project Citizen website here.
Jun 26, 2018 / We the People
The Delaware General Assembly and Governor John Carney recognized Milford Central Academy this month for their participation in the We the People National Invitational and their knowledge of the Constitution!
The joint tribute acknowledges each participating student and their accomplishments. “These remarkable young Delawareans have brought great credit not only upon themselves and their teacher, Mr. Samuel Holloway, whose thorough instruction during this school year was of great importance in their preparation, but upon our entire State of Delaware, whose founding father John Dickinson was himself of central importance in the drafting not only of the U.S. Constitution but of Delaware’s own state constitution.”
Milford Central Academy's We the People class with Delaware Governor John Carney
Milford won the Unit 4 award at the National Invitational this May, led by teacher Samuel Holloway. It was their first time participating in the competition, competing against other middle schools in Washington, D.C.
Students were also able to meet with Governor Carney about the We the People program and the work they put in within the previous school year. Congratulations to all the Milford Central Academy students!
May 21, 2018 / 2018 National Invitational, E-news, We the People
Ten middle school teams attended the 2018 We the People Invitational, showcasing their knowledge on civic education and their public-speaking skills at the National Conference Center from May 4 to May 8.
Fishers Junior High School from Indiana placed first with teacher Mike Fassold. Second place is held by Rachel Carson Middle School in Virginia, led by teacher Cynthia Burgett. Bob Graham Education Center from Florida placed third with teacher John Brady. The awards ceremony was broadcast live on Facebook, where unit awards were also announced. For full results from the competition, see the Center for Civic Education’s website.
Each class competed in teams organized by the six units of the We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution textbook. Each unit deals with one aspect of American constitutionalism. Students are asked challenging questions about constitutional issues by a panel of expert judges made of accomplished scholars, attorneys, and public officials, among others.
To see more of the students and activities from this year’s National Invitational, visit the Center’s Flickr page!
May 17, 2018 / 2018 National Finals, E-news
Over one thousand students attended this year’s We the People National Finals! Fifty-two high school teams from across the country brought their constitutional knowledge to the National Conference Center for this year’s National Finals, impressing us all with their understanding of history, government, and current events.
This year’s first-place winner was Oregon’s Grant High School, led by teacher Angela DiPasquale. Following in second and third places are California’s wildcard team Foothill High School with teacher Jeremy Detamore and Oregon’s wildcard team Lincoln High School with teacher Rion Roberts. In addition to the top-ten awards, unit and regional awards were also presented. See the full list of winner’s on our website.
Grant High School from Oregon was this year's first-place winner.
Students testified before panels of judges made up of lawyers, professors, judges, and other experts in simulated congressional hearings that tested constitutional knowledge, as well as students’ understanding of current events. The top-ten teams were announced at Sunday night’s We the People dance, and these teams went on to compete in hearing rooms on Capitol Hill for the final day.
Miss America 2018, Cara Mund, delivered this year’s keynote address, reminiscing on her own time as a We the People student in 2012 and stressing the importance of civic education in a democratic society.
Do you want to relive the best moments of 2018’s We the People National Finals? Head to the Center’s YouTube channel to watch hearings and interviews; the Flickr page for all the weekend’s pictures; or search #WTPfinals on social media to see all of the posts from the event.
Apr 13, 2018 / 2018 National Finals, E-news
We are pleased to announce that this year’s guest speaker for the 2018 We the People National Finals is Miss America 2018, Cara Mund! A We the People alumna herself, Cara’s team won the North Dakota We the People state finals in 2011–12. “My participation in the We the People program taught me the importance of being politically engaged at a young age,” Mund says. “As an admitted law student, advocate for female empowerment and increased political engagement, and someone who aspires to be the first female governor of North Dakota, I would have never realized my passion for civic education, government, and representing others had I not participated in these programs.”
Cara Mund is the first Miss America from North Dakota. Photo by Matt Boyd Photography.
Mund has a long track record of giving back to her community. At fourteen years old, she founded North Dakota’s Annual Make-A-Wish Fashion Show that has raised $78,500 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This work was acknowledged by President Barack Obama in 2011. She received her bachelor’s degree from Brown University, graduating with honors in Business, Entrepreneurship, and Organizations. She has since served as an intern in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota and will be attending law school.
This sense of civic duty is ongoing, and she credits her civic education for teaching her that her voice matters. “Over the past 6 years I have realized the impact both the Center for Civic Education and its We the People programs have had on my life. As a female from North Dakota, I learned through these programs that my voice matters. I continue to show my support because I would not be who I am today or possess my current career goals had I not been involved with the Center for Civic Education and its We the People programs. I want to help other students do the same.”
Cara’s (right) We the People team won the North Dakota state finals in 2011–12.
The thirty-first annual We the People National Finals competition will be held April 27–May 1 in Washington, D.C. Over 1,100 high school students from 52 classes from throughout the nation will demonstrate their understanding of government and the Constitution by participating in congressional hearings and exploring our nation’s capitol. Follow the Center on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to keep up with the weekend’s events and updates!
Nov 15, 2017 / E-news, We the People
Robert Leming, Director of the Center’s We the People programs, spoke at this year’s Birmingham Seminar on Civil Rights.
In his opening remarks, he honored those who fought for the cause of human rights. “We are here this weekend to honor those who were involved in the struggle, those who suffered discrimination, and those who given their lives for the cause … I am looking forward to this weekend with you, because I believe you are about love. You love your country, you love your families, you love your students, and you understand the importance of civic education.”
The Center for Civic Education has invited hundred of civic educators to experience the Birmingham Civil Rights Seminar to cultivate relationships with civil rights leaders and other educators. This year, Ms. Carolyn McKinstry, Ms. Janis Kelsey, Mr. William Collins, Ms. Martha Bouyer, Mr. Doug Jones, and Mr. William Baxley—who were personally involved in the civil rights movement—were some of the leaders who attended the seminar.
Three members from Charleston, South Carolina, spoke about their roles in the case of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The seminar was sponsored by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Birmingham Division. Speakers’ highlighted the weekend’s theme of hate crimes speaking on the tragic massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015; the murder of a transgender woman named Mercedes Williamson; and the history of hate.
For more on the 2017 Seminar on Civil Rights, check out the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
Nov 14, 2017 / E-news, We the People
The fourth annual We the People Boot Camp for Nevada Congressional Districts 1, 3, and 4 took place October 14, 2017 at Spring Valley High School in Las Vegas, Nevada.
More than 300 students and 25 teachers participated. Presenters included District Coordinators Debbie Berger, Trey Delap, and Michael Vannozzi, Judge Elissa Cadish, Professors Rachel Anderson (UNLV), Sondra Cosgrove (College of Southern Nevada) and David Tanenhaus (UNLV), Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, Faiss Middle School Principal Roger West, Canyon Springs teacher Dr. Lou Grillo, and Clark County School District Social Studies Coordinator Jaynie Malorni. Congressman Ruben Kihuen’s Assistant Ashley Garcia was also on hand for the Boot Camp demonstration and workshops.
Professor Tanenhaus said that, for him, the highlight of the event was watching young people discover how relevant what they’ve been learning is to the world around them. “The students [were] working in groups to discuss how the most talked about stories in the news all related to constitutional elements,” he explained. Those events included the ongoing controversy about the National Football League (NFL) and the recent Vegas massacre. “They realized that the We the People curriculum gave them the vocabulary they needed to discuss these connections.”
Jayne Malorni, Roger West, and Dr. Lou Grillo demonstrate WTP Hearing
The president of Nevada’s League of Women Voters, Professor Sondra Cosgrove, was also impressed with the level at which participating students were working. “In [my] sessions, the students were highly motivated and eager to ask questions and share information,” she said. “We discussed research methods for leveraging online resources, as well as criteria for judging resource reliability. The students demonstrated a wide-range of research experience and constitutional knowledge, and a willingness to engage in debate.”
Vannozzi, a coordinator for District 4, was equally impressed. Working in small groups for just 15 minutes, he tasked his students with researching and composing answers to questions. The students then chose representatives from each group to present their answers in no more than 90 seconds. “The results were fantastic!” Vannozzi enthused. “Afterward, I had several teachers tell me that they will use our ‘sample follow-up question’ exercise in their own classrooms.”
Many of the students found the day valuable and said that it allowed them to become more comfortable with the hearing process, and the question and answer sessions. They also got to practice connecting current events with the U.S. Constitution using social media, technology, and other research tools.