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What are the Responsibilities of a Citizen? (January 2005)

Several Staley Middle School 8th grade students were part of teams involved in a mock congressional hearing held on Tuesday, Jan. 25th.

The Congressional Hearing competition is a culminating activity for a program called We the People . Through this event, students had the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights by testifying before committee members (judges).

The Congressional Hearing is divided into two parts: a prepared three-minute speech and a follow-up question period. During the follow-up, committee members asked students to explain or expand upon their prepared statement. The student teams were from different US History periods; they competed against other teams from Dowell Middle School in McKinney ISD. Teachers of these students were Patience LeBlanc, Staley, and Judit Bruess, Dowell. Mrs. LeBlanc is a trainer for We the People - a program and curriculum that is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and sponsored by the State Bar of Texs, Law-Related Education and The Center for Civic Education. Through this program, students are immersed in a six-week study of the Constitution.

Guest SpeakerStudents' prepared remarks were regarding the responsibilities of citizens. These speeches focused on the ideals of the right and privilege of voting and the price paid for our freedom; the issues of low voter turnout, particularly among young voters; and touched on the concepts of literacy testing in order to vote or issuing a fine for not exercising the right to vote.

Special thanks to judges Janie Worst, a semi-retired history teacher and the regional director of We the People ; and attorney Daniel R. Thering.

The guest speaker was Erik With, who works with Congressman Burgess' Office District 26th. He spoke to students about choices and how they affect their lives, such as making the choice to participate in an event such as the Congressional Hearing. Choosing to challenge oneself with activities such as these and cultivating the skill and desire to research, study and learn is critical, he stated. In his remarks he credited his educational experience and taking advantages of all of the opportunities afforded to him through his schooling as a major part of his success and for his being where he is today. Mr. With stated that Congressman Burgess is a life-long learner as well, and believes in the importance and power of education. He hoped that the students would continue to challenge themselves and to model citizenship even at their young ages.

The winning team among the nine who entered was Mrs. Bruess class team 2 - Brittany Frew, Ashley Turevon and Eve Maher.