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LOHS team takes third in state


We The People event features U.S. Rep Suzanne Bonamici as a judge

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Lake Oswego High School placed third in the statewide We The People competition Jan. 16.Lake Oswego High School placed third in the statewide We The People competition Jan. 16, even though — at 13 members — the team was half the size of its smallest competitor.

“We were very surprised,” says Kelsey Talbot, LOHS senior. “It was amazing.”

The Classroom Law Project, which organizes this simulation of a Congressional hearing as well as Mock Trial competitions, aims to further youth participation in democracy. For We The People — the first three words of The Preamble in the U.S. Constitution — competitors broke up into six groups and readied speeches or girded themselves for waves of questioning from community leaders acting as judges, including U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici.

“Suzanne Bonamici was there, and I was able to meet her and explore this whole career path I might want to take in the future, and it was a very, very fun experience,” Talbot says. “I had never really been interested in law or very interested in U.S. government, but taking this class, it was kind of an eye-opening experience to learn more about our rights as citizens of America and how we can represent ourselves in government.”

Not only did students need to present themselves well before judges as prestigious as a U.S. representative while in the storied halls of the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse in Portland, but these teen competitors also had to master topics as diverse as the philosophy of the country’s founders and the evolution of the Constitution, LOHS teacher and We The People coach Gerrit Koepping says.

And LOHS had it even tougher. While most teams only needed to prepare for three rounds of competition, half of the Laker team had to prepare for six rounds of competition, Koepping says.

“We had a small team this year, which meant each student had to do even more work on a wider range of topics,” he says. “But, they did great, answering questions (that ranged from) what the founders would think about the situation in Malheur County to the role of technology in the Fourth Amendment.”

This “small but scrappy” group bested teams from Franklin, Central Catholic and Wilson high schools. Lincoln High School finished first at the event and Grant High snagged second, but that’s not unusual: Either Lincoln or Grant has taken first place in Oregon’s We The People finals since 1987.

LOHS has a solid history of its own, however, often placing third in state. It dropped to fourth in the past two years, but this hard-working team changed that, Koepping says.

LOHS senior Joshua Bell says all of the participants demonstrated just how untrue stereotypes are about his generation being “lazy” and not caring about anything.

“It really amazed me, because everybody was super-smart and there were some people that were absolutely incredible in what they know. It really gave me hope for this generation,” Bell says, “because the next generation of leaders does exist.”

By Jillian Daley
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