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Juniors Shine at Civics Showcase

By: MMACHS Staff

Members of the two top performing units at the 2023 We the People Civics Competition show off their medals.

When you think about Meridian Medical Arts Charter High School, the words "government", "politics", and "civics" likely don't come to mind. But just because the students in our hallways are gearing up for a career in the health-science industry, it doesn't mean they passively consume other important fields of their education.

Each year the junior class participates in the Idaho State We the People Competition, where students act as expert witnesses giving testimony in a simulated congressional hearing. Teams consist of an individual government class, and each class is divided into six separate units of three to four students. These units have to prepare written responses to three high level questions about the United States Constitution, and after delivering their testimony must navigate follow-up questions from the judges playing the role of senators or members of congress. Units receive an individual score, and the scores of the six units are totaled for a team score.

While the experience is elective for students from other schools, at MMACHS it is a mandatory exercise. Blake Gaudet, who teaches the school's Honors American Government classes, believes this program is a great way for students to put the soft skills they've developed to use.

One of this year's units testifying for the judges.

"One of the great joys of being a teacher at

this school is watching these kids realize how capable they are in areas they have never really ever considered before" he said. "None of these kids came to MMACHS because they were excited to take part in a civics competition, but every year they absolutely knock it out of the park. The judges always tell me that when they speak to our kids it feels like they're having a conversation with a fellow adult."

He says it's important that MMACHS students know what kind of influence they might have in their communities. "They all have the potential to be leaders later on in life, so it's vital that they practice thinking about important issues and entering into positive discussions about the ideas they develop. We never care about what opinion they end up holding, we're interested in their ability to adequately defend that opinion confidently with evidence, reason, and logic. I'm always thrilled with how well they demonstrate their ability to do just that."

This year's questions covered everything from the role of the Supreme Court in determining what constitutes a fundamental right, to how to tackle issues related to immigration. The participants were judged on their knowledge of constitutional principles, the strength of their arguments, and their presentation skills.

One junior who walked away with a medal, Emily Daniell, found the process to be empowering.

"I am so thankful for the opportunity to participate in We the People" she said, "It was so much fun to feel the power behind confidently presenting what you've worked so hard on, and then winning on top of all of it!"

This year's junior class in their respective hearing rooms, waiting to compete.

Another medalist, Jentri Van Ackern, enjoyed how the event allows students to mix education with competition. "[The experience] not only enriched our knowledge of our government, but also instilled in us a deep understanding of how and why it functions the way it does" she said. "We the People provided us with an unparalleled platform for learning, where education was seamlessly blended with excitement and competition."

We the People State Coordinator Pete Kinnaman (whose day job is teaching a number of social studies classes at MMACHS), was thrilled with this year's edition, the first in-person hearings since COVID sent things online in 2021 and 2022. "We the People has re-launched, with our first competition since COVID-19 taught us all lessons about public health policy. This year's group impressed the judges with their understanding, application, and synthesis of the Constitution's history and its principles."

Congratulations to our juniors for an incredible performance. Next year's competition is already scheduled for February 9th, 2024. One thing you can count on is that the MMACHS class of 2025 will be there, ready to take their swing at this annual tradition.

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