Even before members of the House of Representatives opened their session by reading the U. S. Constitution, seventh-graders in Evanston’s public schools were studying it. To bring home for these students the connection between what could seem an abstract document and their present education environment, the League of Women Voters of Evanston holds an annual contest in which District 65 seventh-graders present their conceptions of an aspect of the Constitution.

Each year the contest, “Your Rights, Your Reasons,” focuses on one aspect of the Constitution and invites students to address it through written word, visual art or performance art. Several panels of community leaders judge the entries, and prizes are awarded in each category. This year’s question asked students to relate the Constitution’s preamble to the document itself.

Michelle Jordan, of the League of Women Voters of Evanston, and Jamilla Pitts, social studies facilitator for District 65, coordinated this year’s contest and awards ceremony.

Participation was voluntary, and students from three of the District’s four middle schools (all but Bessie Rhodes) participated. Nichols School teacher Brian Sommer said he “encouraged all the students to participate … to learn the connection between the ideas of the Founding Fathers and how things work today.” He said the students “really enjoyed the art piece. The essay they didn’t mind but weren’t jumping for joy. And the parents liked the contest.”

On Jan. 8 student winners accepted their awards and members of the public viewed the entries – on display in the lobby of the Joseph Hill Education Center and on videos in the board room.

District 65 Superintendent Dr. Hardy Murphy said contests such as these are the “cornerstone of building education” because they “define our country and what it means to live together. … It helps students internalize the lessons of what it means to be an American.”

Susan Black, president of the League of Women Voters of Evanston, said she hoped the students “have a better understanding of the U.S. Constitution … and that they will take this knowledge and keep these lessons as they become more active participants in our society.”

District 65 School Board member Katie Bailey said, “A part of public education is to raise good citizens. This [contest] allows them to express their understanding of the Constitution in different ways.”

Ms. Jordan concluded, “In addition to learning about the Constitution, this was a great way to display creative talent.”

Three of District 65’s four middle schools – Chute, Nichols and King Lab – participated in the annual “Your Rights, Your Reasons” Constitution contest, sponsored by District 65 and the League of Women Voters of Evanston. The names of the winning participants in the “written word,” “performing arts” and “visual arts” categories are as follows:

First Place

Written Word, Kadya Chavkin, Nichols; Performing Arts: Maia Spertus-       Melhus, Haven; Visual Arts: Lillian Jones, Haven

Second Place

Written Word, Eliza Segal, King Lab; Performing Arts: Sophie Berne, Miara Handler, Cecilia Hansen and Adrian Lafont-Mueller, Nichols

Visual Arts, Linda Graves, Nastasia Litinsky and Tiffany Vega, Nichols

Third place, Hannah Hayat, Nichols

Honorable Mention

Written Word, Eleanor Ivey, Haven; Hailey Ledin, Nichols; Charles Maxwell, Nichols; Annabell Paulson, Nichols; Isaac Sageman, King Lab; Ethan Stein, Chute; Zane Tolchinsky, Nichols; Julia White, King Lab; and Hunter Wortman, Nichols

Performing Arts, Wesley Adrian, King Lab; David Burkhart, Chute; Kryssa Clark, Chute; Madison Doppelt, Chute; Benjamin Good, Nichols; Brandon Graver, Chute; Taj Jackson, King Lab; Adam Masters, Chute; Madeline Schumm, Chute; and Kai Vogelsberg, Chute

Visual Arts, Sophie Clark, Haven; Julia Dansen, Haven; Thomas Davies,       Haven; Gabrielle Dinsmore, Chute; Guia Ferguson, Nichols; Celeste Franco, Haven; Elyzandra Freitas, Nichols; Ryan Foreman, King Lab; Kathryn Gruner, Haven; Isabel Hart, King Lab; Madison Houk, Haven; Ian Jones, Haven; Ann Keenan, Haven; Nora Linzer, Haven; Alexandra Nicholson, Haven; Kabrea Parker, Nichols; Kaitlin Reeves, Haven; Sophie Reeves, Haven; Abigail Steman, Haven; and Laurel Weislogel, Chute.

Many of the award-winners are pictured above left to right in back row are Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, District 65 School Board member Katie Bailey and Superintendent Hardy Murphy.