POCATELLO — Southeast Idaho high school students dominated in Boise, and now they’re heading to Washington, D.C. to compete on the national stage.
High school students enrolled in an on-campus dual enrollment course at Idaho State University took first place in the state “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” Mock Congressional Hearing Competition on Jan. 30. The team will travel to the nation’s capital in April to participate in the country-wide "We the People" competition.
We the People, a national program since 1987, promote civic education and participation among high school students. Idaho State enrolled students in its first We the People course last fall, and since then, students have learned to apply the Constitution to our laws and lives.
“I’m going to be able to vote when I turn 18 this year, so being able to have this amount of education and understand all the things that are going on, it’s super important to me,” said Luke Bedell, a senior at Highland High School. “When you’re able to affect governments and you’re participating, you know everything that you need to know.”
Over the last six months, Idaho State’s We the People class has studied the U.S. Constitution with instructor Holly Kartchner to prepare for the state competition. Together, students wrote 18 papers addressing constitutional questions and practiced presentations with professors and members of the community.
Their efforts paid off in January when they took first place at the state competition and qualified for nationals.
Preparing for the We the People competition, students said, taught them how to engage with the Constitution and actively participate in government. They also learned communication and teamwork skills they’ll use throughout their careers.
“If you don’t have your team, you really don’t have anything,” said Josie Neihart, a junior at Blackfoot High School. “Your team’s your foundation, and you can’t do it on your own.”
As Idaho State’s We the People students practice for the national competition in D.C., they are also fundraising for the costs associated with attendance.
The team will host a tri-tip steak or chicken cordon bleu dinner fundraiser on March 28, with a raffle, games and live band. The event will take place at the Blackfoot Elks Lodge, 123 N. Ash St. at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 per plate. Kids’ meals with chicken nuggets are available for $8 per plate.
To purchase tickets to the dinner or donate items to the raffle, please contact Holly Kartchner at 208-521-9162 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations are also accepted and appreciated.
Taking the We the People course and attending competitions, said Highland High School senior Destini McKee, has instilled in students an awareness of why civic participation matters. She and her fellow students hope to grow that understanding even more in Washington, D.C.
“We definitely have a whole new generation of voters coming of age this year,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what political party or what your beliefs are — what matters is that you have an active role in your government, and that’s what our nation’s founded on.”