South Lake students apply Constitutional knowledge at middle school competition

Twelve students from South Lake Middle School recently took part in a regional challenge that tested their knowledge of Constitutional principles and required them to defend positions on issues of historic and contemporary significance.

The Southern California Middle School finals of the “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” competition took place on Saturday, Jan. 29. Organized by the Center for Civic Education and hosted by the UCI School of Law, the event featured a simulated congressional hearing that divided knowledge and application of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights into six units.

South Lake’s Hamza Khwaja, Roberto Rojas and Nerwel Zhao received the highest achievement award for their presentation on unit No. 4, which addressed the question of how the Constitution was used to establish our government. Other local participants included Emilie Birchler, Dylan Bruss, Rae Holcomb, Andrew Hong, Jennifer Kodia, Makeez Manely, Catherine Manning, Danny Nguyen and Samantha Omiya.

The South Lake squad was the only middle school from Orange County to participate in the competition, according to Suzanne Baldwin, an eighth-grade social studies teacher who coached the team.

“I am incredibly proud of our students and commend their hard work in preparing for such an intense and valuable competition,” Baldwin said this week.

“It is one thing to learn information about the U.S. Constitution,” she said, “but yet another to apply it to current events and be asked to defend your opinions surrounding the current operation of our government with reference to Supreme Court cases. The students were challenged to think on their feet against the constraints of time, and they couldn’t have represented themselves and South Lake any better.”