Students show off their constitutional knowledge at We the People competition

Students from Lincoln Southeast High School compete in the state We the People competition.

A team from Lincoln East High School has qualified for the national competition in We the People, a program that promotes civic responsibility and knowledge about the history and principles of U.S. constitutional democracy.

Roughly 100 LPS high school students participated in the state competition, held Wednesday at the University of Nebraska College of Law. In addition to East - which won for the 13th time in 15 years - students from Southeast, North Star and Southwest high schools also competed. Southeast finished second and may still earn a trip to nationals as a “wild card.”

It was technically a competition, but students said they enjoyed the entire We the People experience, regardless of the outcome.

“It took a lot of time, a lot of research, but it was honestly really interesting to learn about all of this, apart from the competition. I honestly just learned a lot about America and history and the Constitution, so that was really interesting to me,” said North Star senior Linda Kuku.

“I stress to them that this isn’t a test, this isn’t necessarily a competition when we get here,” said North Star teacher Jace Ahlberg, “it’s a lot of wanting to converse about a very specific topic and their opinions are valued by other people.”

As part of the state competition, teams of four students participated in a simulated congressional hearing in which they testify before a panel of judges acting as members of Congress. Judges included university professors, attorneys, and current and retired judges. Students demonstrated their knowledge and understanding of constitutional principles and had opportunities to evaluate, take and defend positions on relevant historical and contemporary issues.

Students offered heavily researched answers to questions that included: What are the philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system? How has the Constitution been changed to further the ideals contained in the Declaration of Independence? What challenges might face American constitutional democracy in the 21st Century?

Students spent hours preparing for Wednesday’s competition. Max Draus, a senior at Southeast, said it was a lot of work, both during class and after school. But it was worth it.

“It’s important to gain that knowledge so you’re involved in your government and you’re able to participate civically,” he said.

The national finals will be held April 24-27 in Washington, D.C.


Published: January 10, 2020, Updated: January 14, 2020

"It took a lot of time, a lot of research, but it was honestly really interesting to learn about all of this, apart from the competition. I honestly just learned a lot about America and history and the Constitution, so that was really interesting to me."

North Star senior Linda Kuku