Miami Killian Senior High students demonstrated their knowledge of the principles that form the basis of our democracy by earning second place in the annual We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution district finals.
The group of 22 juniors and seniors, led by social studies teacher Amy Lander-Rolon, recently competed with groups from other schools in the district by proving their comprehension of the United States Constitution.
Lander-Rolon said the students were well-prepared and performed admirably.
“You can see the progression in a lot of the students as their understanding and knowledge expands — their confidence and public speaking,” she said. “I was very proud of them. Even though they didn’t win, they did exceptionally well.”
We the People, a national program in which all states participate, was founded in 1987 by Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger to encourage student involvement in government and constitutional studies. Students prepare using a textbook, lessons and other resources provided by the Center for Civic Education.
Each class in the competition is divided into six units of three to six students who focus on areas of constitutional interest including political philosophy, government structure, civil liberties and constitutional development during pivotal periods in American history. Students are judged on their understanding, reasoning, responsiveness and use of constitutional application and supporting evidence.
The program culminates in a simulated congressional hearing where students testify before a panel of judges to demonstrate their grasp of constitutional principles. During the hearing, students evaluate, take and defend positions on issues of historical and contemporary relevance.
“It’s really important to make sure you’re not just arguing for what you want versus what [the Constitution] says or what you think it’s supposed to say,” said senior Alicia Camaliche, 17, who hopes to work in international relations. “You have to look at when, how and why it was written, and from that you have to look at it through something called ‘constitutional interpretation,’ which I definitely learned how to do on a very expert level to understand and make my arguments.”
Lander-Rolon said the group consisted largely of students enrolled in Killian’s law program. Killian has participated in the competition since the 1990s.
Senior Federico Romero, 18, one of the few participating students from outside of the law program, had developed an interest in constitutional law before joining the group. He said his experience in the competition reinforced his interest in pursuing a law degree in college.
“I was introduced to a world where I had to deal with tangible decisions and make arguments using real-world examples,” Romero said. “I never had an opportunity like this before, so it actually gave me some insight that most of my classmates had beforehand that I did not”
The class, which on Jan. 12 lost to state runner-up Miami Arts Studio 6-12 at Zelda Glazer, received additional coaching from civil trial attorney Mitchell Panter, managing partner of Panter Panter & Sampedro PA.
Panter, who has coached Killian students for several years, expressed his pleasure with their performance in an email.
“Each year the students amaze me with their hard work, dedication and ability to compete at such a high level,” he wrote. “Again, this year it was a great experience to work with Ms. Lander-Rolon and her students. The efforts paid off as the team did great. I look forward to seeing many of these students in court one day soon.”