On January 12th, Mikva Challenge DC took a class of AP government students from HD Woodson High School in northeast DC to visit the Supreme Court, hear oral arguments in the Duncan v. Owens case, and meet with Justice Kagan. Despite being born and raised right here in Washington, DC, none of the students had ever visited the Supreme Court and many had never even walked by the Court, the Capitol Building or the Library of Congress before our field trip this week. The whole experience really allowed the students to see themselves as part of our democracy and helped them understand how the government is run by and for the people.
Prior to the field trip, the students had a classroom visit from Tom Goldstein – top Supreme Court litigator and creator of the SCOTUS blog. Mr. Goldstein had the students enthralled in some thoughtful debates about the legality of police searches, school policies around free speech and dress codes, and whether schools can conduct random drug tests on students enrolled in after school clubs or teams. Mr. Goldstein also joined the students for their meeting with Justice Kagan.
Reflecting on their trip to the Supreme Court, students had these insights and appreciations to share with Justice Kagan and Mikva Challenge DC
- “It was nice seeing a real case with all nine of you up there. I learned more about the law and saw strategies on how to present the facts in a court case.”
- “I am honored to be part of the experience you gave my AP US government class. You are the true definition of being determined and persistent…..you embody some of the characteristics I am working on within myself. You are one of the Supreme Court heroes!”
- “I can see myself more involved within the government in the future, especially if there are more assertive, focused and yet friendly individuals like you.”
- “Mikva Challenge DC empowers the youth and places us in positions where we can benefit significantly. You guys rock!”
Their teacher, Laura Fuchs, wrote this note to share with Justice Kagan- “Thank you so much for spending your time with my students on Tuesday. Hearing your story and seeing how approachable and relatable you were really help them see that they too can take part in the government and strive to make a difference. I can already tell that they are more interested in learning about the details about how the federal courts work and as a teacher this is invaluable. “
Modeled after the successful civic engagement programming developed for youth in Chicago, Mikva Challenge DC develops youth to be informed, empowered, and active citizens and community leaders. As we are building our DC chapter of the Mikva Challenge, we are delighted to be able to extend these kind of unique, powerful and impactful opportunities for our students.