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Students brush up on Constitution for state competition
Kristen Wederski, center, expressed herself during a "We the People" practice in the Riverton High School media room. Wederski's teammates, from left, included Amber Erhart, Ashley Lynott and Jaden Hernandez. Photo by Wayne Nicholls

Students brush up on Constitution for state competition

Nov 30, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Students enrolled in Riverton High School's senior college government course will travel to Casper on Monday to compete in this year's district-level We The People contest.

The national program, sponsored by the Center for Civic Education, was designed to promote civic competence and responsibility by asking students to study the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

During competition, the students answer questions and defend their opinions in front of a panel of judges -- an intimidating experience for some adolescents, according to RHS social sciences teacher Kristy Richmond. She organized a practice round for her college government class Tuesday, inviting parents, administrators and members of the Fremont County School District 25 Board of Trustees to serve as judges.

"That was great," Richmond said, thanking community members for their support. "It's really about letting (the students) engage in conversations with adults."

The practice competition is usually "a little bumpy," but Richmond said it is important for students to get comfortable discussing their research.

"We identified areas they can improve," she said. "That type of feedback is really what we seek, and I think we accomplished those goals."

During class time this week, students met in sub-groups to refine the essays they will present during Monday's contest. Each small group prepared three reports, any of which may be chosen for use in the competition.

"We're trying to get them all to sound good," senior Karissa Kister said Thursday in the RHS library.

She was working on wording with classmate Sam Stagner, who said the We The People project has been fun so far.

"I like team exercises," Stagner said.

The competition also has helped him reflect more about his country and the reasons behind his civic pride.

"It makes you realize what's happening and how significant the Constitution is," he said. "It's pretty great."

Across the room, Celeste Rotholz was busy editing a paper with teammates T.J. Galey, Dawson Steeds and Savana Zwiefelhofer. They planned to break the essay into four parts so each student could read a section for the judges Monday.

"We're trying to prepare ourselves (and) work well as a group," Rotholz said.

She added that We The People is about more than the competition -- students who go through the program are meant to gain a better understanding of the relationships between constitutional principles and historical and contemporary issues.

"I learned about the ties between history and politics," Rotholz said. "The words you hear on the news really are applicable."

Six teams will advance from Casper to the state competition set for January in Cheyenne. The winner of that event goes on to nationals in Washington, D.C.

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