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High school students study Constitution as they strive to become better citizens

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership hosted its Civic Leadership Institute June 16-21.

Students spent the final day at the camp in a moot court, where they presented and debated famous cases that have appeared in front of the Supreme Court.

June 27, 2019

More than 60 high school students from Arizona, California and Texas recently spent a week on the Tempe campus at Arizona State University where they studied the Constitution and Abraham Lincoln in the second annual Civic Leadership Institute from the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

The Civic Leadership Institute, hosted June 16-21, is a free program for any high school student interested in learning more about the Constitution and American principles. Led by the school’s faculty, students spent four days studying famous court cases and decisive moments in the Lincoln presidency. 

The program was split into two separate tracks: Constitutional Rights and Liberties, and Abraham Lincoln and the American Principles. On the final day of the institute, both groups came together to listen to each other perform either moot court — where the students simulated famous U.S. Supreme Court cases about freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, due process of law and equal protection under the law — or cabinet battles between different members of Lincoln’s cabinet on the issues of emancipation, the Civil War and more. 

The students who attended the Civic Leadership Institute recognized how crucial it is to be informed citizens despite the fact many of them cannot vote, yet. 

“In order to be educated citizens when we grow up and vote, it’s important for us to understand the Constitution, the rights it protects and the rights we have,” said Sowmya V., a student at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale.

“If we’re educated and have the knowledge we can go back and share, it makes a much more informed people and public,” said Gustavo C., a Brophy College Preparatory junior. “We can use that information to go out on Election Day and make informed decisions and be better citizens of our country.” 

In addition to the courses, students also had the chance to explore life on the ASU campus, as well. They lived at Barrett, The Honors College’s residence hall, spent time at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex, hiked “A” Mountain and visited the Hayden Library. 

"(The program) gives you really great insight on what life would be like at ASU,” said Lexie S., a student at Veritas Preparatory Academy who also attended last year’s Civic Leadership Institute. “You can see the great teachers and great opportunities, and they talk about the amazing stuff. The campus here is so beautiful.” 

The Civic Leadership Institute is in its second year and has doubled in size in that time. The program began through inspiration from like-minded concepts at the University of Notre Dame, Yale and Princeton in an effort to expose high school students to a Socratic, small-class environment while introducing them to dorm life on a university campus. The first cohort of the Civic Leadership Institute brought together 32 students from Arizona to study the Constitution.