By MAX FILBY
Members of Findlay High School’s constitutional law team still feel the pressure to win, even though the school has been named state champion 13 consecutive times and 22 times overall.
“There’s a ton of pressure,” said senior Emily Schaefer. “We’ve won almost every time.”
Team members say they don’t want to let down the students who came before them, and that keeps them studying and winning.
Capturing the state title in the “We The People: The Citizen and the Constitution” competition in January brings a chance to compete at the national level.
Findlay High School will represent Ohio in the national competition from April 26 to April 28 at George Mason University, just outside Washington, D.C. The closest the team has come to winning the national competition was its second place finish in 1991.
The constitutional law competition is a debate between students and legislators, judges and lawyers. Students are given a few minutes to make their case in a mock congressional hearing on topics to a committee of lawyers, legislators and professors. That committee then asks students questions for six minutes to test their knowledge, before providing an overall score.
It’s similar to an oral exam, but instead of just one teacher listening, the audience is filled with professionals and peers.
“We need to be careful what we say,” said Hiromasa Haruda, another member of the team. “One wrong answer and they could be hammering us for it.”
One topic the team excelled with at states was the Bill of Rights, said Mark Dickman, teacher and adviser for the group of students.
“The judges were just really impressed with some of the examples they used and how they participated,” Dickman said.
To prepare, Schaefer, Haruda and their teammates practice and study the U.S. Constitution in class every week. Students credit Dickman with keeping it interesting and entertaining.
“I wasn’t originally a fan of history before this,” Schaefer said.
Not only is competition entertaining and exciting for Dickman’s students, the topics they’re learning about are important to them.
As the national competition approaches, Dickman wants his students to spend their time preparing, so he makes sure they don’t have to worry about fundraising or other things needed for them to travel and compete. He takes care of procuring donations and planning ahead for the competitions.
Dickman and his students must raise between $26,000 and $31,000, and so far they have around $16,000 for this year’s trip to Washington.
“We try to fund it just through donations,” Dickman said. “With as much as it costs, it would take a lot of bake sales to pay for everything.”
Some of the group’s biggest donors are team alumni who have gone on to work for politicians in Washington, New York and all over the U.S., Dickman said.
Dickman said he isn’t worried about maintaining the winning tradition so much as he is about the students learning and enjoying the competition.
“It helps to have good students,” he said. “It makes all the hard work worth it.”
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