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5/9/2013 1:05:00 PM
Finding their voices at St. Therese
St. Therese School photo
The class of 2013 from St. Therese.
St. Therese School photo
The class of 2013 from St. Therese.

Tensions were high the afternoon of April 19 as Melissa Baumbach’s eighth grade social studies class was dressed to the nines ready to give their speeches in front of six judges, including two practicing attorneys.

The “Congressional Mock Hearings” have become a rite of passage eighth graders at St. Therese School in Northeast Portland. Giving a speech and then having to back up one's opinions in front of the middle school and professionals can be daunting.  

“I liked the hearings, but it made me really nervous. What I learned is how to be more confident and speak in front of crowds better,” said Whitney Warth.   

For Delina Biniam, the process sparked a future goal: “I now have a strong passion for politics that I may reconsider becoming a lawyer….I also want to be active in foreign affairs.”

Matthew Juson loved the hearings: “I learned about civic virtue and the republican government and how it was made.”

The exercise not only tests the students in their abilities to speak in front of a group and work as a team, but also made many appreciate the government in a much more profound way. Anna Khouri “learned that the government has a lot to do and trying to keep people happy is very hard” while Kyle Wright liked “learning about the powers given to each side of the government.”  

This exercise was the final significant project the students will do at St. Therese before their graduation June 10. Most of the students have been together since kindergarten. Many talk of being close to their classmates and always being able to count on them in times of need. Delina proclaimed the class as “culturally diverse and welcoming of others. We practice civic virtue.”  Wanjiku Njuguna lamented that she “will miss the unity and good times.”

Sixteen out of the 18 students will be attending Catholic high schools. All students are looking forward to the new experiences high school will bring. Extracurricular activities and clubs seem to top the list. Whitney, who will be attending Central Catholic in the fall, captured the spirit of excitement for the future. “I am looking forward to starting a whole new chapter in my life," she said. "In the end I will always be able to come back to these true friends.”

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