BLACKFOOT â€” Blackfoot High School's state championship We The People competition government team showed about 35 community members its skills on Thursday.
Fourteen of the 16 students who have qualified for the national competition in Washington, D.C., next month answered questions about the U.S. Constitution from a panel of judges including Mayor Mike Virtue, assistant prosecuting attorney Mark Cornelison and Independence Alternative High School teacher Dan Grimes.
After a 16-minute video from the Center for Civic Education, which created the program in 1987, the first group of students answered a question about the need for civil discourse. Following their response based upon their research and studies during the year, the judges asked what the students have learned about civil discourse.
"It gave me respect for my leaders," said Erica Bruderer as she described an incident during a telephone call with Bingham County's representatives to the Idaho Legislature.
"We The People has expounded on civil discourse," added Kyra Babcock while Tyrell Lyons noted, "it's learning how to listen to both sides of the story. If you're cursing and yelling it makes you look belligerent."
Another question related to the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, which protect criminal defendants.
In assessing the knowledge that they demonstrated, Grimes said, "they demonstrated passion and they pulled in a lot of knowledge. They didn't know what questions we were going to ask."
To a question about the major purposes of government, Jaden Davis and his teammates spoke about being aware of what it is doing and being willing to become involved.
"The ultimate rulers of our democracy are the voters," Davis pointed out. "If you don't participate in your government, it's your own fault."
Virtue challenged the students, "now that you know, you need to share it."
The students have been fundraising all year to raise the $26,000 it will cost to get them and their chaperones to the national competition. They are in charge of recycling at the high school, sell baked goods at school, conducted a pancake supper and have been soliciting donations from local businesses.
Dr. Dennis Hatch presented a check for $1,500 to Holly Kartchner, who teaches the class, takes its members to the weekly legislative breakfasts and directs the fundraising efforts. He noted that he doesn't have a child on the team this year, but added that participation changed his daughter Amy's life.
"I issue a challenge to all the business people to make my donation and pay for one student," he said.
Several people pointed out that while the team is from Blackfoot High School, it is the state champion and it is appropriate to ask the business people they know in other communities for donations.