3Rs program: Grand Rapids Bar Association attorneys will teach GRPS students this year

September 17th, 2013 by MCCE Admin

The Grand Rapids Bar Association and Grand Rapids schools Tuesday, Sept. 17, launched the 3Rs program, in which 30 volunteer attorneys will teach constitutional law and other civics subjects to ninth-graders.

“I think it will be a service academically,” said Kristin VandenBerg, president of the 1,400-member Grand Rapids Bar Association about working with GRPS to integrate it into its curriculum.

“Our hope is to develop connections with students and help them to think about their future and get a little bit more specific. Mentoring is really a piece of the program.”

The program’s goals are to improve understanding of and respect for the rule of law and the Constitution; provide practical career counseling to focus students on their potential beyond high school; and to improve the pipeline of minorities flowing into legal careers in the region.

3Rs is being piloted at Ottawa Hills High School, 2055 Rosewood Ave. SE. Members of the bar and GRPS staff and administrators were at the high school Tuesday night for a reception to kick off the 3Rs program, which stands for Rights, Responsibilities, and Realities. A total of 150 freshman will be involved.

“We want students to realize the Constitution is relevant and affects them every day,” said Natasha Neal, the Student Reform Supervisor for GRPS, who has a law degree from New York Law School. “The lawyers will be bringing in real-world examples to illustrate topics to engage.”

“It is easier for them to learn a concept, if they are talking about something real they can relate to.”

Classes are 50 minutes. Seven lessons are planned from Nov. 13 to May 14, covering topics from freedom of speech and expression to the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Career counseling is also an important part of the program and part of the lesson plan.

The program will wrap with a debate. The program is modeled after the successful 3Rs program the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association started with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and East Cleveland City Schools in 2006. The program has grown to include 400 to 500 volunteer lawyers a year, working with 2,200 to 3,000 10th-graders in 18 to 22 high schools.

A few years ago, the leadership of the Grand Rapids bar heard about the Cleveland program and decided to explore it further. At the time, the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative, an effort to retain and recruit attorneys of color and women in the West Michigan area as part of a pipeline initiative, was getting underway.

Twelve firms are collaborating on 3Rs, including Foster Swift Collins & Smith. Michael Homier, managing partner for Foster Swift’s Grand Rapids office, said he became interested in law because an attorney came into his classroom and talked about careers in the legal profession.

“This is a great opportunity to get in the classroom and inspire some of these kids,” said Homier, who said 3Rs has multiple benefits. “We want increased diversity of the legal field in Grand Rapids. One characteristic that gives you the best chance is family connection.”

Rodney Lewis, principal of Ottawa Hills High School, said the pilot will generate interest in various legal fields, as well as help students gain a greater understanding of the U.S. Constitution and what it means to them as citizens of the United States.

The announcement coincides with Constitution Day. Tuesday morning, 30 attorneys were in 30 GRPS fifth-grade classrooms educating them on the Constitution. Schools across the country honor the signing of the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787, with a special teaching emphasis. The primary funding for 3Rs will be covered by the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative and the bar association. Ongoing operating costs will be determined by the number of participating schools – all of which will be determined at a later date.

By Monica Scott | mscott2@mlive.com

We the People Now Available As an Enhanced Ebook

September 5th, 2013 by MCCE Admin

We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution, an internationally acclaimed civics textbook for high school students, is now available as a Web-based enhanced ebook that can be read on nearly any device, including Macs and PCs, Apple iPads and iPhones, Android tablets and smart phones, and Windows 8 touch-screen devices.

The We the People enhanced ebook features hundreds of videos, photos, fundamental documents, and interactive exercises that give students a rich, multimedia environment for learning about the Constitution and the contemporary issues that impact today’s learners. Each lesson also includes a built-in optional teacher/guide and audio narration.

“We wanted to give teachers and students an affordable, easy-to-use, and interactive web-based We the People textbook that not only enhances the text, but also maintains the quality and integrity of We the People, which has been used in classrooms around the country for more than 25 years,” said Charles N. Quigley, the Center’s executive director.

“The We the People enhanced ebook uses hand-selected resources and web-based technology to introduce a new generation of students to the fundamental concepts of our constitutional democracy.”

We the People was first published in 1987, when its development was funded and cosponsored by the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution. The commission was chaired by Chief Justice of the United States Warren Burger, who was an early supporter of the We the People program and wrote an introduction to the textbook. The program has reached more than 30 million students since 1987.

“The We the People program engages students in learning about the U.S. Constitution and our system of government. The program helps them to become passionate, dedicated learners and responsible citizens,” said Robert S. Leming, director of We the People.

“The new We the People enhanced ebook involves students in an online learning experience that allows them to dig even deeper into the history and understanding of democratic principles and ideas of representative government.”

We the People is priced at $19.95 per user for a six-year license or $9.95 for one year. It can be purchased at http://motuspublishing.com/shop/wethepeople.

Subscribers can visit the iTunes App Store and the Google Play App Store to download and install the We the People mobile app, which can be used to access their ebook anytime, anywhere using the same username and password. The apps and the browser-based versions save student answers to exercises to the cloud, which means that student work can be accessed on any device the student might use.

A sample We the People lesson is available at http://demoapp.motuspublishing.com/sample-media-book/. A user’s guide can be viewed at http://motuspublishing.com/ebook/we-the-people/support.

The Michigan Center for Civic Education has coordinated the We the People program in Michigan since 1987. The 28th annual Michigan We the People State Finals will be held at the Michigan Capitol Complex on January 10, 2014.

“Like” MCCE’s Facebook Page for Resources for Constitution Day

September 4th, 2013 by MCCE Admin

Although MCCE believes that students should learn about the Constitution and Bill of Rights every day, Constitution Day provides schools with an opportunity to emphasize the importance of this document.

Federal law requires any educational institution that receives federal funds to hold an “educational program” on the United States Constitution on September 17 of each year. When September 17 falls on a weekend it can be held on the preceding or following week. The law does not define educational program.

Check out MCCE for Teachers on Facebook for regular posts of Constitution Day Lessons and Resources. A terrific annotated listing of Constitution Day resources has been put together by David Hales, Social Studies Consultant at Wayne RESA (and MCCE Board Member). The annotated list is broken down by grade level (elementary, middle school, and high school) and the links take you directly to the referenced Constitution Day lessons. To access these resources, click here.

Michigan Department of Education invites high school students to apply for the 52nd annual United States Senate Youth program.

August 23rd, 2013 by MCCE Admin

The 52nd Annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP), established in 1962 by a United States Senate Resolution, will be held in Washington D.C. the week of March 8-15, 2014. Two student leaders from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity will spend the week in Washington D.C. experiencing their national government in action.

This program may be of particular interest to students who have participated in We the People, Mock Trial, Model United Nations, and other civic education programs. Student are also required to be currently serving in an elected or appointed capacity in any one of the following student government, civic or educational organizations: a. Class President, Vice President, Secretary or Treasurer; b. Student Body President, Vice President, Secretary or Treasurer; c. Student Council Representative; d. Student representative elected or appointed (appointed by a panel, commission or board) to a district, regional or state-level civic and/or educational organization approved by the state selection administrator.

Students will visit Capitol Hill, the White House, the Supreme Court, the Pentagon, and the State Department. Each delegate will also be awarded a five thousand dollar ($5,000) college scholarship for undergraduate studies, subject to the conditions and requirements specified in the rules. Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow will present certificates representing the scholarship award, to the Michigan delegates during their Washington visit.

The USSYP is sponsored by the United States Senate, and funded and administered by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. The Foundation believes it is in the public interest to encourage these outstanding young people to continue their educational development. The Foundation also pays all expenses for Washington week, including transportation, hotel accommodations, and meals.

To apply, qualifying juniors or seniors must request the USSYP Application and Qualifying Exam. These documents are available by contacting Mary Harmer at HarmerM@michigan.gov. All completed documents must be returned to Ms. Harmer at the Michigan Department of Education by November 1, 2013. For further USSYP information, please refer to www.ussenateyouth.org.

Cranbrook Girls Middle School wins first place in statewide Law Day contest

August 22nd, 2013 by MCCE Admin

The Oakland Press

The State Bar of Michigan awarded 21 sixth graders at the Cranbrook Girls Middle School first place in the annual State Bar of Michigan Law Day Contest.

This is the second consecutive year that a team from Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Township has earned first place. The girls were sponsored by Michigan attorneys Gerard Mantese, Theresamarie Mantese and Greg Nowakowski.

State Bar President-Elect Brian Einhorn was in attendance to address the students, as was Margaret J. Krasnoff, chair of the State Bar Law Related Education and Public Outreach Committee. Honorable Fred Mester was also present and praised the students, parents and advisors alike.

Cranbrook Girls Middle School was represented by Head of School Stacy Rivard, who emphasized how proud she was of the students in engaging in this Law Day project. Also present from Cranbrook Middle School was its Dean Nola-rae Cronan.

Over the last two years, the State Bar’s Public Outreach Committee has invited participants in the contest to submit a creative entry based on a historic Michigan legal event. The Cranbrook winners created a video dramatization of the famous dissent by Michigan attorney and jurist Frank Murphy in the case of Korematsu v. United States. Margaret Krasnoff, representing the State Bar of Michigan, emphasized that the new format, allowing Internet-type submissions, modernizes the contest and encourages use of creative media.

The Korematsu case involved the United States government’s decision to intern Japanese-Americans in camps after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The government’s decision, and the subsequent court case highlighted by the Cranbrook students, represented the height of discrimination and was based on unsubstantiated fears of disloyalty.

Fred Korematsu refused to report to a camp and was arrested and convicted of violating the internment order. He challenged his conviction all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, where the conviction was affirmed.

However, Frank Murphy, a lifetime resident of Michigan and former Michigan Supreme Court Justice, who was sitting on the United States Supreme Court at the time of the case, issued a brave and eloquent dissent from the majority. Ultimately, history proved that Judge Murphy was on the right side of the issue, as the majority decision was discredited and, decades later, Korematsu’s conviction was overturned by a writ of coram nobis and he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The winning submission by the Cranbrook sixth graders was a 34-minute video production that dramatized the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the military internment order, the trial and appeal by Korematsu, the Supreme Court opinion and the subsequent events surrounding Korematsu’s life and legal efforts.

The students researched, wrote, acted and played music to the entire production, ending it with an original song entitled “I Dissent.” The film also featured an interview with a gentleman from Royal Oak who interned at a camp in Wyoming in 1942. The children voted to contribute the $1,000 first-place prize to Child Safe. Ann Marie Lesniak was there to accept the check on behalf of Child Safe. She thanked the students for their contributions, noting that many foster children are in need of housing and other services.

Mester was instrumental in publicizing Law Day when he was on the Oakland County bench. In a speech he delivered in 2011, he emphasized, “The purpose of Law Day is to remind each of us of the founders admonition that this new government was to be a government of laws, not men. … The Rule of Law has provided the environment for each individual to have a certainty of opportunity, to bloom to his/her full potential and play their special part in making the greatness of America. … The law is more than procedure, document or statute. It is alive with the sensitivity and ideals of the people at their highest. It is the bulwark of freedom and the bastion of progress.”

Nominate the 2013 Civic Education Teacher of the Year

August 14th, 2013 by MCCE Admin

Do you know a teacher you feel is deserving of this recognition, perhaps even you?

The Michigan Civic Education Teacher of the Year Award is given annually to elementary or secondary teachers of civics, government and law-related education who have demonstrated exceptional expertise in preparing students to become informed and engaged citizens.

Submit a maximum two page summary of the teacher’s civic education activities, including up to two letters of recommendation. Nominations may be submitted by the teacher or other individuals.

Among other factors, applicants for the award will be judged on the following criteria:

Excellence in the instruction of law-related civic education;

Initiative in the development of law-related/civic education materials and programs;

Leadership in the teaching profession by promoting law-related civic education;

Effective use of community resource persons in support of law-related/civic education.

The nomination deadline is September 13, 2013. The nomination package can be submitted via e-mail to info@miciviced.org or mailed to 306 Townsend, Lansing, MI 48933.

The recipient will be announced at the Michigan/Great Lakes Regional Social Studies Conference on Saturday, October 19 at the Lansing Ramada Conference Center.

The Michigan Law-Related Civic Education Teacher of the year Award has been presented yearly by the Michigan Center for Civic Education since 1984.

Register Now for the Michigan/Great Lakes Social Studies Conference

July 16th, 2013 by MCCE Admin

Join us at the Michigan/Great Lakes Social Studies Conference to be held Friday, October 18 – Saturday, October 19 2013 at the Ramada Lansing Hotel and Conference Center. The Michigan Center for Civic Education is pleased to be partnering once again with the Michigan Council for Social Studies, Michigan Council on Economic Education, and the Michigan Geographic Alliance. Each of the content organizations is responsible for organizing a strand of the conference. Workshops of special interest to teachers of civics, government and law include:

Civics–There’s an App for That! Civically Engaging Students with Technology

Courts Resolve Disputes: Small Claims Court and Mediation Simulations for Elementary

Declared to be Free: Teaching about the Amistad Case

Exploring Separation of Powers and the “Rule of Law”– A Conversation with the Honorable Michael Riordan, Judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals

iCivics: Exploring Government through Interactive Games

Mock Trials for the Classroom and Competition

Street Law – Teaching about recent Supreme Court Decisions

Taking It to Court: Informal Traffic Hearings

Teaching High School Civics

“Think Deeper” – Mock Trials as a teaching tool for Civic Instruction

What Sways Voters?

More information is available at http://miciviced.org/programs/educating-for-citizenship.

Click here for the Joint Conference Registration form.

Become a Member of the Michigan Center for Civic Education and receive a Reduced Registration Fee as follows:

Member Full Conference – 160.00

Member One-Day Friday Only – 115.00

Member Half-Day Friday Only – 65.00 (Allows attendees to participate in sessions after 1:45pm on Friday)

Member One-Day Saturday Only – 115.00

Contact info@miciviced.org for more information.

We hope to see you there!

Save the Date for the Michigan/Great Lakes Social Studies Conference

June 5th, 2013 by MCCE Admin

The Michigan Center for Civic Education is partnering with the Michigan Council for Social Studies, Michigan Council on Economic Education, and the Michigan Geographic Alliance to present the Michigan/Great Lakes Social Studies Conference on Friday, October 18 and Saturday, October 19, 2013 at the Ramada Inn Conference Center in Lansing,

Click here for information on the Conference Speakers.

Check back soon for Registration Details and a List of Sessions of special interest to teachers of civics, government and law.

Contact info@miciviced.org for more information.

Congressional Record Recognition of Michigan We the People State Champions by Hon. Mike Rogers

May 21st, 2013 by MCCE Admin

“Twenty-nine exceptionally bright students from Howell High School in Michigan won a competition on their knowledge of the Constitution. As the winners of this competition , they came to Washington, D.C. the last weekend in April to participate in the national finals of the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution program.

The We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution’ program, administered by the Center for Civic Education, helps elementary and secondary students build a strong foundation of knowledge of the history and philosophical influences of the Constitution. The knowledge gained from this experience teaches the students about civic responsibility and how to enhance and uphold the democracy of this nation.

The final activity in this program, which took place April 27-29, gave students the opportunity to “testify” in a simulated congressional hearing. This experience allows them to utilize and demonstrate their understanding and teaches them how to evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues based on constitutional principles. I am happy to announce that the Howell High team won the Outstanding Unit Six award. Overall the team finished 16th in the nation with Unit One also placing in the top ten and Unit Two finishing 14th overall.

I am honored and proud to recognize the achievements of these students, they are Unit One: Heather Buja, Brody Kutt, Aaron Osborne; Unit Two: David Grusendorf, Lauren Lomasney, Nicole Trudeau, Jason Wisby; Unit Three: Ashley Carignan, Megan Isom, Jeremy Johnson, Sarah Kenney, Francesca Mettetal, Benjamin Schultz; Unit Four: Katherine Beard, Dillon Higgins, Adam Hukkala, Samantha Rineman, Christina Szkrybalo, Jake Tholen; Unit Five: Michael Beard, Grant Bowman, Jarrid Rector-Brooks, Erika Seneca!, Karsyn Textor; and Unit Six: Breanne Casper, Nadja Grauer, Abigail Harrington, Andreja Petrulis, Jonathon Reck. I also recognize Linda Start, the Michigan state coordinator for the “We the People …..” program.

I would also like to applaud Mark Oglesby, the teacher who has led the Howell High School class to this national competition after eleven years of competing in the state of Michigan.

It was a pleasure to meet these students while they were here and I wish them the best in their future endeavors”.

The Congressional Record is available here.

Civics/Government/Law Presenters Sought for Joint Social Studies Conference

May 6th, 2013 by MCCE Admin

Do you have a program or resource to share with teachers to help educate youth for engaged, responsible citizenship? Consider presenting at the Michigan/Great Lakes Social Studies Conference to be held October 18-19 at the Ramada Lansing Hotel and Conference Center.

The Michigan Center for Civic Education is responsible for recruiting and selecting presentations that will be of interest to Civics, Government, and Law teachers, K-12.

To access the Presenter Application Form, click here. Contact Linda Start, Executive Director, Michigan Center for Civic Education at info@miciviced.org with any questions.

The Michigan Center for Civic Education is partnering with the Michigan Council for Social Studies, Michigan Council on Economic Education and the Michigan Geographic Alliance. Presentations Proposals must be submitted by May 31.

Cranbrook Sixth Graders Win State Bar of Michigan’s Second Annual Law Day Contest

May 1st, 2013 by MCCE Admin

A group of 21 talented sixth graders from Cranbrook Girls Middle School in Bloomfield Hills has won a $1,000 grand prize award in the State Bar of Michigan’s second annual Law Day Contest. Second place in the contest, and a $750 prize, goes to a group composed of leaders of the Davis-Dunnings Bar Association, youth involved in the Turning Point of Lansing, and various volunteers.

The grand prize winners, led by attorney advisors Gerard Mantese, Theresamarie Mantese, and Gregory Nowakowski, wrote, acted in, and submitted a 34-minute video discussing the United States’ internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and Justice Frank Murphy’s famous dissent from the majority Supreme Court opinion upholding this internment. The trial was the subject of a 1996 State Bar Michigan Legal Milestone. Contest entrants had to link this year’s Law Day theme “Michigan – Realizing the Dream: Equality for All” to one or more Michigan Legal Milestones.

The Cranbrook Girls Middle School will receive a $1,000 grand prize award to put toward law-related education efforts.

Brookside student winners include Mahshad Afshar, Yasmeen Amjad, Srujana Annavarapu, Julia Bolton, Kalah Brown, Gabrielle Gross, Sofie Harb, Zehra Husaini, Swathi Karthik, Abigail Laveroni, Emily Jones, Isabel Mantese, Claire Pearce, Sophia Moustakas, Hanna Rodriguez, Aanya Shah, Eliana Silverman, Paige Tar, Ava Trepek, Natalie Wilcox, and Dina Zreik. Their video captures the hostility Americans of Japanese descent faced following the attack on Pearl Harbor that led to the United States’ entry into World War II. It was against this backdrop that Fred Korematsu, a young Japanese American, was ordered by the military to leave his home and report to an internment camp. In 1944, a United States Supreme Court majority upheld his exclusion as a valid exercise of military authority. Murphy, a Harbor Beach native and U. S. Supreme Court justice from 1940-1949, dissented from the decision, and wrote the majority’s position was nothing more than the legalization of racism.

The second-place winning group created a coloring book commemorating the State Bar’s 37th Michigan Legal Milestone about the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

This year’s Law Day contest was the second in what the State Bar expects to make a long-standing annual tradition. It is overseen by the SBM Law-Related Education and Public Outreach Committee. “Committee members hope that many lawyers, students, and community groups will watch the winning video and plan now to enter the contest next year,” SBM LRE-PO Committee Chair Margaret Krasnoff said. “It would be great to see entries from groups in different parts of the state, and projects from groups working together on interactive or cooperative contest entries.”

View the winning entries on the SBM website.

Howell High School We The People Team Returns from Washington, DC

May 1st, 2013 by MCCE Admin

Howell High School

While Howell High School’s We The People Team did not finish in the Top 10 at the 26th Annual We The People National Finals in Washington, DC over the weekend, the team’s Unit 6 did receive an award as the Top Unit 6 in the nation. Members will return to classes Wednesday with many great memories and experiences to treasure.

“I am proud of my students for their hard work and their performance,” We The People Teacher Mark Oglesby said. “This is a subjective competition, and you can never know how close it might be. They received some great comments and some judges are honestly surprised they are not in the finals, but that is the way the ball bounces. They have nothing to be down about because they did a great job.”

While the team did not make it to the top 10 of the competition, one of the team’s units, Unit 6, was awarded as the best Unit 6 team in the nation, during an awards ceremony on Monday night.

“We heard some great feedback from the judges,” Oglesby said. “We had some high level judges drilling and grilling our teams, and the students stayed composed and responded in an articulate manner. It was great watching that.”

The Howell High School students competed on Saturday and Sunday. The top 10 winners were announced Sunday night.

The Unit 6 team members learned of their award during a ceremony on Monday night. “I’ve never had a class where I learned more,” said Andreja Petrulis of Unit 6. “We studied for so long, and the hard work really paid off. This is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

Unit 6 member Bree Casper said her team struggled during the district competition and members felt like they were the “worst team” competing at that time. “It’s been crazy, like a whirlwind for us,” Casper said. “I think our mentality became ‘let’s not lose this for the team.’ We were the top Unit 6 at State Finals and the top Unit 6 at the National Finals. I feel like instead of the little engine that could. We were the little unit that could.”

Oglesby said being at the national competition has offered him a chance to meet up with several teachers who have inspired his work with the Howell We The People teams he’s coached over the years. Seeing this year’s team compete has been especially rewarding.

“Everything I am as a teacher comes from what I have been able to do with this program, how it helps me and improves me as a teacher, as well,” he said. “I can’t say enough about what it means to me.”

A 2006 Howell High School graduate and We The People veteran Jaqueline Cauley, has assisted teams with training every year since her graduation from Howell High School. She helped coach this year’s team and traveled to Washington, DC as a chaperon for the team.

Oglesby said more than 200 people contributed to raise the $52,000 needed for the group to travel to Washington, DC. The largest contribution was from the Ted and Jane Von Voigtlander Foundation, which offered a matching grant of $26,000 for the cost of the trip.

While in Washington, DC, the students visited Senator Debbie Stabenow, Senator Carl Levin and Congressman Mike Rogers. They saw several memorials including the Jefferson, FDR, Lincoln, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Martin Luther King and George Mason memorials, and they took tours of the Capitol, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress; visited the Smithsonian Museum and the National Zoo. In addition, the group visited the National Holocaust Museum and saw the embassies on Embassy Row.

“Throughout all of these experiences, the students expanded their knowledge and understanding of the government and rights,” Oglesby said. “They continually applied what they were seeing to what they were studying. As a teacher, it was excited to watch the discussion and application of everything they have been working on.”

“Throughout all of these experiences, the students expanded their knowledge and understanding of the government and rights,” Oglesby said. “They continually applied what they were seeing to what they were studying. As a teacher, it was excited to watch the discussion and application of everything they have been working on.”

We the People team ready for this weekend’s nationals

April 25th, 2013 by MCCE Admin

Livingston Daily

Members of the We the People constitutional debate team from Howell High School have arrived in Washington, D.C. for this weekend’s national championships.

This is the first time the Howell team has qualified for the national finals, which are being held Saturday and Sunday at George Mason University and Monday in Congressional hearing rooms on Capitol Hill.

More than 1,300 students from across the U.S. are expected to take part in the competition, which tests students’ knowledge on constitutional issues in a format similar to a Congressional hearing.

Local residents can keep up with the team Washington activities by visiting its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/howellwethepeople. The Top 10 qualifying teams will be posted online at http://new.civiced.org/top-10 after 10 p.m. Sunday.


Kalamazoo Central Mock Trial Team going to National Tournament

April 3rd, 2013 by MCCE Admin

By Julie Mack | jmack1@mlive.com

Kalamazoo Central High School’s mock trial team got word at 3 p.m. Tuesday that they’ll be representing Michigan in the national tournament.

By 5 p.m., the students were at a practice session.

It’s an exciting turn of events for the team, which came in second to Clarkston High School in the March 23 state tournament. As the state champion team, Clarkston Michigan’s spot at the national contest.

But Clarkston has to bow out. “They have too many students who had a conflict with (International Baccalaureate) testing,” said Francis Bilancio, the team’s head coach.

The national tournament is May 10-11 in Indianapolis.

This is far from the first time that Kalamazoo Central is going to nationals.

The team has won 17 state titles since it was formed in 1986, and the most recent state title was in 2009. The team won the national championship in 1996 and placed second in the nation for three consecutive years, 2006-08.

“I’m just thrilled for the students,” Bilancio said.

He said that he’s especially excited because the nobody on the current team has been to the national tournament before and “once you go there, it gives you stronger drive” to do well the next year and return.

Bilancio heard last week that Clarksville might not be able to compete in Indianapolis, although “it was a long-shot scenario,” he said.

Still, that gave him the chance to develop a “ground game” if Kalamazoo Central got the nod. Once he got the official word Tuesday afternoon, he said, there were a flurry of phone calls and emails and students had a evening practice session.

“The students really rallied,” he said.

He said that K-Central should be a worthy competitor at the national tournament.

In the state championship round on March 23, one judge gave more points to Kalamazoo and two judges gave their ballots to Clarkston. But Kalamazoo lost the two ballots by only one point in each case and overall, Kalamazoo had more points.

“We won on points, but it’s the ballots that count,” Bilancio said. “It could have gone either way.”

Bilancio said his team is “tremendously prepared” for national competition.

“Our students have worked so hard and this is a tremendous payoff,” he said. “I’m really excited, especially for the kids.”

The Kalamazoo Central team is comprised of seniors Jane Fisher and Sabrina Hirsch; juniors Amanda Sidwell, Olivia Hodge, Alana Labelle-Hahn and Karanjit Sohi; sophomores Isaac Bertman, Sarah Ghazal, Abujit Rai and Katherine McKibbon, and freshman Zjalyn Carter.

In addition to Bilancio, the team is coached by Becket Jones, lead attorney coach; James Liggins Jr., attorney adviser coach, and assistant coaches Gavin Thole and Maggie Teutsch. Liggins, Thole and Teutsch are both former K-Central mock trial members.

Demonstration to Help Polish Howell’s ‘We The People’ Team

April 1st, 2013 by MCCE Admin

WHMI Livingston County

An event next week will serve as a tune-up of sorts for a local group of students set to represent Michigan in a national competition. Howell High School’s We The People team is hosting a demonstration night on Tuesday, April 9th at the Howell High School Auditorium as they prepare for the National Competition April 26th -29th in Washington DC. School officials say the demonstration night will serve multiple purposes by letting the public see what We the People is about, while also helping the students practice and thanking their sponsors as well. Since taking 1st place at the State Finals in January, several individuals, businesses and organizations have contributed to help the team raise the $52,000 needed for all 29 members to travel to Washington DC. A big part of that came from the Ted and Jane Von Voightlander Foundation, which pledged $26,000. At the Demonstration Night, each team will answer one question from the judges based on the three questions the teams are preparing for Competition. Guest judges include Howell Superintendent Ron Wilson, Livingston County Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt, Howell High School Principal Jason Schrock, and others. We the People is an instructional program on the history and principles of American constitutional democracy for elementary, middle school, and high school students.

Clarkston High School takes first place at 2013 Michigan High School Mock Trial State Finals

March 23rd, 2013 by MCCE Admin


Photo Courtesy of Tammy Allen for the State Bar of Michigan.

On Saturday, March 23, 10 teams advanced to the State Finals of the 2013 Michigan High School Mock Trial Tournament.

Four Teams advanced to the semifinals, and after two more hard-fought rounds the final results are as follows:

State Champions: Clarkston High School (Team A)
Runner-Up: Kalamazoo Central High School
Third Place: Forest Hills Northern High School
Fourth Place: University of Detroit Jesuit High School

Also competing at the State Finals (the highest scoring teams from their respective Regional Tournaments) were:

Ann Arbor Community High School
Clarkston High School (Team B)
St. Mary Catholic School Yale High School
Ypsilanti High School (Team A)
Ypsilanti High School (Team B)

Mock trial teams from Community and Ypsilanti high schools compete at state finals

March 22nd, 2013 by MCCE Admin

By Kody Klein AnnArbor.com Intern Reporter

Three mock trial teams from Community High School and Ypsilanti High School are heading to Lansing on Saturday to compete in the state finals for Michigan Center for Civic Education’s high school mock trial tournament.

The CHS team was allowed to practice at Washtenaw County Trial Court in Judge Archie Brown’s courtroom in preparation for state finals.

Kody Klein I AnnArbor.com The teams are advancing after their success at the Ann Arbor regional tournament on March 2, where 13 teams competed. The CHS A-team placed first and the Ypsilanti A and B teams placed third and second, respectively. At finals, they will face seven other teams that advanced from the regional tournaments in Grand Rapids and Pontiac.

“We’ve been doing practices nonstop since the regional tournament,” said Loretta Tracy, executive director of University of Michigan’s student-led Future Advocates In Training, which provides student coaches to the Ypsilanti teams. “Everybody’s working really hard.”

Mock trial is a multidisciplinary activity, incorporating elements of law with improvisatory theater. Each year, MICIVIC releases a new case that teams must study and act out. Students exercise legal procedure as they assume the roles of attorneys and witnesses, conducting a realistic trial with one team acting as defense and one acting as prosecution.

“I’m a lawyer for both sides so I have to argue with myself all of the time,” said Julie Karr, a senior at CHS.

This year’s trial is a defamation of character lawsuit wherein a high school student sues a rival school for publicly accusing the student of cheating during a mock trial competition.

Despite that the case is the same for each trial, each team approaches it differently.

“Every time you see a trial, it’s a new thing,” said Chloe Root, who teaches at CHS and coaches the mock trial team. “They’re trying new things every time to try to throw the other team off their game.”

Of the 10 teams competing at state, only one will proceed to the national tournament on May 9 in Indianapolis. CHS teams have won six times since 1995, including the past three years.

“It’s a little bittersweet that it’s my last tournament,” said Karr, who has been participating in mock trial since her freshman year.

Root said she’s excited for her team to compete against the Ypsilanti teams.

“They’re both really good,” she said. “They’ve got a lot of acting stuff down in a way that a lot of teams don’t.”

Tracy said FAIT has supported the Ypsilanti teams for four years, during which time one team has made it to the state finals.

“I think we’re all really excited,” she said. “It’s good to know that all of the kids made it.”

FAIT organizes U-M law students to coach the Ypsilanti teams, helps fund the teams, and even runs a clothing drive at U-M to help provide the students with professional clothing.

“We’re trying to attract kids who might not have thought of mock trial as an activity that they would be able to participate in,” Tracy said.

Yale High School mock trial team will battle Saturday in state finals

March 21st, 2013 by MCCE Admin


The eighth annual St. Clair County Bar Association Mock Trial Tournament was conducted, as always, the last Saturday of February. Thirteen teams from nine St. Clair County high schools competed. One hundred and twenty-three students practiced from November until game day.

Every student demonstrated a good, basic knowledge of courtroom procedure, a well-developed theme of the case and presentation of that theme by the entire team and, more importantly, competition in a respectful, professional setting where preparation, ethics and depth of character are every bit as important as the mental gymnastics plied in each courtroom duel.

Every year, Capac High School teacher/coach Steve Sampson has his teams well-prepared for courtroom battle, and this year was no exception. Capac entered four teams who finished second, third, fourth and fifth in the St. Clair County competition.

For the second straight year, Capac won the Honorable John G. Cummings Professionalism Award. Coach Sampson and the entire Lozen Law Firm (Coaches Tim Lozen, Ana Kovar, Matt Lozen and Katie Haemelinck) are to be congratulated for another outstanding year of competition.

The 2013 first-place winner in the St. Clair County competition is Yale High School. Teacher Scott Brown is in his sixth year coaching Yale’s Mock Trial Team; he partners with lawyer Brandon McNamee who is in his fourth year coaching Yale.

These two coaches very obviously worked hard to give their students every opportunity to demonstrate their brainpower and abilities. Neither coach is paid. Both poured countless hours and energy into coaching and teaching these students.

Congratulations to Coaches Brown and McNamee, the awesome students who make up the Yale team, and Superintendent Ken Nicholl for the foresight and determination to offer the program to Yale High School students (and especially for tapping Coach Brown for duties some six years ago!)

At the regional competition, students from Anchor Bay, Port Huron and Port Huron Northern, Capac and Memphis competed March 3 at Grand Rapids or Ann Arbor or March 10 at Pontiac.

All mock trial competitors learn critical thinking skills, analyze factual scenarios from both plaintiff and defense perspective, advocate fairly and honestly for their respective positions and properly address the judge, the jury, and their opposition.

Yale High School excelled at the state Regional Mock Trial Competition. Yale is one of only 10 teams in the entire state advancing to the finals Saturday in Lansing. Yale will be competing against huge schools: Ann Arbor, Clarkston, Kalamazoo, Ypsilanti, Forest Hills Northern, U of D Jesuit and St. Mary Catholic.

Coach Brown, Coach McNamee, and Yale team members Kyle Alderson, Danielle Mackey, Bobby Felster, Lauren Piatek, Drew Morgan, Courtney Salisbury and Natalie Currie, you have earned our respect and admiration; we are honored to have you represent St. Clair County. Go, Bulldogs!

By: POINT OF VIEW Cynthia S.

Kalamazoo Central Mock Trial team places first in regionals, qualifies for state tournament

March 3rd, 2013 by MCCE Admin

Kalamazoo Central High School’s mock trial team placed first in regional competition Saturday and has qualified for the state tournament on March 23 in Lansing. K-Central placed first in all three rounds of competition. Forest Hills Northern was second and St. Joseph High School was third. Saturday’s competition was held at the Kent County Courthouse in Grand Rapids.

The Kalamaazoo Central team is comprised of seniors Jane Fisher and Sabrina Hirsch; juniors Amanda Sidwell, Olivia Hodge, Alana Labelle-Hahn and Karanjit Sohi; sophomores Isaac Bertman, Sarah Ghazal, Abudit Rai and Katherine McKibbon, and freshman Zjalyn Carter.

Francis Bilancio is head coach; Becket Jones is attorney coach, and assisant coaches are Gavin Thole andMaggie Teutsch, who are both former mock trial members.

Central’s mock trial team placed second in the state last year. The team has won 17 state titles since it was formed in 1986. The team won the national championship in 1996 and placed second in the nation for three consecutive years, 2006-08.

The mock trial tournament is organized and conducted by the Michigan Center for Civic Education. Students take on the roles of attorneys and witnesses and compete against other schools in real courtrooms in front of real judges and lawyers. But while the students take on roles, there is no set script. As in a debate, participants must adjust to the strategies employed by the opposing side.

By: Julie Mack | jmack1@mlive.com

Register Now for Civility and Free Expression: A Community Conversation On Gun Violence

March 1st, 2013 by MCCE Admin

Civility across the nation seems to be lacking in both political discourse and our daily lives. Is it possible for us to freely share our ideas on contentious issues and remain civil with one another?

The Michigan Center for Civic Education is pleased to be partnering with the Community Conversation Forum, a group of citizens in Grand Haven and surrounding cities. Community members are invited to participate in facilitated conversations, explore the issue of gun violence from a local perspective, and think about the role civility plays in our democracy.

Other partners include The League of Women Voters and Loutit District Public Library. This program is part of Civility and Free Expression in a Constitutional Democracy—A National Dialogue, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and is conducted in partnership with the American Bar Association Division for Public Education.

A panel of local experts will precede the small group conversations. Panellists include: Ron Frantz, Ottawa County Prosecutor; Dr. Lia Gaggino, President, Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Keith Konarska, Superintendent, Grand Haven Area Public Schools; Jane Longstreet, Ottawa County Community Mental Health; Thomas J. Poel, Gun Rights Advocate; Mark Weisman, firearms retailer. For more information or to register, click here.

Get Involved with Civic Education in Michigan!