High school students earn top honors in statewide finals of The Constitution Project competition

3 December 2014


High school students earn top honors in statewide finals of The Constitution Project competition


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Supreme Court of Missouri last month recognized the winners of the statewide finals of The Constitution Project, a new experience-filled intensive competition in which high school students from throughout the state gained experience in the fields of journalism, crime scene investigation and trial advocacy.

“Initially, it was rewarding just to see the enthusiasm with which all the students approached the competition, but by the project’s end, it was just amazing to see the students’ grasp of how to apply the constitution in each of the three disciplines,” Chief Justice Mary R. Russell said. “The students worked side-by-side with professionals as they tackled the tasks of investigating and reporting about a mock crime scene at the state highway patrol headquarters and then tried the resulting mock criminal case in courtrooms in the Supreme Court building. This immersion gives the students a much richer understanding of the importance of our nation’s constitution and the effect it has on the daily lives of our citizens.”

Russell was joined at the awards ceremony by Supreme Court judges Paul C. Wilson, Laura Denvir Stith and Patricia Breckenridge, who also chairs the Court’s civic education committee. The ceremony was the culmination of a rigorous daylong competition among the state finalists, who advanced by excelling in regional competitions. Winning their regional competitions were Cardinal Ritter College Preparatory High School in St. Louis; Logan-Rogersville High School in Rogersville, Mo.; and School of the Osage in Lake Ozark. The fourth team competing in the state finals was an all-star team comprised of the top students in each of the three disciplines from the regional competition whose schools did not advance to the team finals.

Individual and school honors were given in three categories: the First Amendment Award, recognizing outstanding journalism; the Fifth Amendment Award, recognizing outstanding crime scene investigation; and the Sixth Amendment Award, recognizing outstanding trial advocacy. A new school honor also was given for the best web design and use of multimedia.

Individual awards were presented first:

  • First Amendment Award, which included a $1,000 scholarship sponsored by the Missouri Broadcasters Association and the Missouri Press Association, was won by Caroline Dade of Logan-Rogersville High School. She won the same award last year.
  • Fifth Amendment Award, which included a $1,000 scholarship sponsored by the Missouri Police Chiefs Association and the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association, was won by Sarah Lowe, also of Logan-Rogersville High School. She also is a second-time winner in this category.
  • Sixth Amendment Award, which included a $1,000 scholarship sponsored by the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys and the Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers, went to Cameron Cardwell of Cardinal Ritter College Preparatory High School.

Team honors were presented next:

  • First Amendment Award – Cardinal Ritter College Preparatory High School.
  • Fifth Amendment Award – Logan-Rogersville High School.
  • Sixth Amendment Award – Cardinal Ritter College Preparatory High School.
  • Best Web Design and Multimedia Award – Logan-Rogersville High School.

Three other special awards were instituted this year.

  • The first, called the Scout Award in honor of the character from the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, was given in recognition of exceptional diligence in seeking truth, justice and freedom. It was presented to Alley Beamer of Nixa High School, a member of the journalism all-star team.
  • The second was called the Patriot’s Heart Award in honor of fallen Vietnam War veteran Willie McVae, who as he died on the battlefield asked his platoon-mate and friend, Don Hentges, to make sure everyone would understand the freedoms for which he died. This new award, given in recognition of outstanding demonstration of conviction in advancing the principles of the constitution, was presented to Barrett Young of Nixa High School, a member of the trial advocacy all-star team.
  • The third was called the Witherspoon Award, in honor John Witherspoon, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence perhaps better known as a professor at Princeton University, where his students included a future president, vice president, nine cabinet members, 21 federal senators, 39 congressmen, three justices of the United States Supreme Court and 12 state governors – not to mention five members of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. In recognition of the legacy of John Witherspoon, this award was given to Mark Hall, a school resource officer from Logan-Rogersville High School, for creating a legacy of inspired hearts and minds.

Finally, a traveling “Freedom Cup” was awarded to the grand champion, Cardinal Ritter Preparatory High School. (see photo below)

Now in its second year statewide, the Constitution Project is an intensive, hands-on competition that engages students in investigating a mock crime scene, reporting about the crime and processing the resulting case as it progresses through the system, culminating in a mock trial – all under the mentorship of local professionals in the fields of crime scene investigation, journalism and trial advocacy. In addition to the civic education committee, statewide cosponsors of the project or its fellowships include the Missouri Broadcasters Association, Missouri Police Chiefs Association, Missouri Press Association, Missouri Sheriffs Association, Missouri State Highway Patrol, The Missouri Bar, the University of Central Missouri and University of Missouri-Columbia.

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Photo of Cardinal Ritter College Preparatory High School students
Students from Cardinal Ritter College Preparatory High School celebrate Wednesday night, November 12 at the Supreme Court of Missouri in Jefferson City with the Freedom Cup as grand champions of the 2014 Constitution Project competition.