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Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy    JOINDONATE
Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy    JOINDONATE


For the past two years, I have had the pleasure of participating in the program We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution sponsored by the New York State Bar Association’s Law, Youth and Citizenship Program.

The goal is to promote civic competence and responsibility among the nation’s elementary, middle and secondary students. The instructional program enhances students’ understanding of the institutions of American constitutional democracy. They also discover the contemporary relevance of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The culminating activity is a simulated congressional hearing in which students “testify” before a panel of judges. Students demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of constitutional principals and have opportunities to evaluate, take and defend positions on relevant historical and contemporary issues. Each year, high school We the People classes are invited to participate in the We the People state hearings. Hearings begin at the regional level. Top classes at the regional level attend the state finals. One class goes on to represent New York at the We the People National finals in April. Six schools sent teams to the state finals which were held February 27, 2016 at the Albany Marriott. The

competition is comprised of two parts: 1) the students speak on a question they have been given in advance, 2) the students answer questions asked by the judges. I was a judge. I was very impressed with how well the students were prepared and their ability to express themselves.

The top team, New Visions Law and Government, from Region 3, has the opportunity to testify at the We the People National Hearings in Maryland state, April 22-25, 2016 on the University of Maryland campus.If you are interested in learning more about this program, contact Martha Noordsy, the NYS Bar Association, Law, Youth and Citizen Committee Director, at

Mary Berry, LWV of Albany County

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