Students eye national Constitution contest final

MARQUETTE — Twenty-three Marquette Senior High School students will put their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution to the ultimate test in front of a mock congressional committee as part of the “We the People” competition’s national finals in April.

The MSHS students took second at the state finals in January held in Lansing, but eventually secured a wildcard spot for the national finals, set for April 21-24 at the National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia, near Washington D.C.

Fred Cole, social studies teacher and coach for the competition, said MSHS’s teams have finished top three in five of the last six years of competition, with this year being the school’s first trip to the national finals. He also said it’s the first time a Michigan school north of Grand Rapids will take part at the national level.

“I am very proud of these students,” Cole said. “Michigan is usually a top 10 team at nationals, so this is quite an accomplishment. The students worked very hard for this and were very patient as the wildcard process played out over the last month.”

At the national finals students will participate in simulated congressional hearings and testify as constitutional experts before panels of judges acting as congressional committees who will score students’ performances.

Classes will be divided into six groups based on the six units covered in the “We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution” high school textbook.

Hearings begin with students giving a four-minute prepared opening statement, followed by a six-minute period during which students are questioned about their knowledge, understanding and their abilities to apply constitutional principles to current and historic examples without the use of notes or other materials, Cole said.

Every student enrolled in Advanced Placement U.S. Government classes at MSHS participate in We the People hearings locally, Cole explained, while the group of 23 students signed up for the state and national finals.

However, there is a price associated with the trip. Cole said the cost is more than $1,500 per student, which includes airfare, lodging, meals, ground transportation and other related expenses.

A crowdfunding effort is underway to assist with some expenses of the trip, and donations can be made by visiting

Checks can also be made out to “MSHS We the People” and mailed to MSHS We the People, 1203 W. Fair Ave., Marquette, MI 49855.

Cole said several members of the team qualify under federal guidelines for the free lunch program, but the entire group is hoping contributions from individuals, businesses, service clubs or local professional organizations can meet projected expenses.

“We are very excited to represent Michigan and the U.P.,” he said. “The students have a huge challenge in front of them, but they are excited to take it on, and we really appreciate all the support we are receiving from the Marquette community.”

Ryan Jarvi can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His email address is