How do you get high school students to pay close attention to a presentation about the U.S. Constitution? Talk with them about their constitutional right to look at their cell phones.

“Just because the Constitution is a 250-year-old document, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect our lives today,” explained attorney John Branch of Shanahan Law Group PLLC (Raleigh) to a group of 70 middle and high school students. Branch illustrated his point by holding up his own cell phone and discussing constitutionally protected privacy rights and digital technologies.

Branch talked with students at Word of God Christian Academy in Southeast Raleigh as part of Constitution Day programming put on by the NC Bar Association’s Constitutional Rights & Responsibilities Section with support from the NC Bar Foundation’s civic education programming staff. Constitution Day is observed each year on September 17, a federal observance that recognizes the adoption of the United States Constitution.

The information shared was so critical for understanding how the Constitutional impacts the ways in which youth exercise their constitutional freedoms on social media platforms and cell phones. This really got them thinking. 

– Travis Fowles, Chief of Staff, Word of God Christian Academy

Students were especially interested in protections related to freedom of speech.  “We want our voices to be heard,” said one student. Students at Word of God spoke about ways to use their voices to improve the student experience at their own school. Senior high school student Tori Montague shared, “Changing our environment for the greater good is important. There is power in giving.”

Constitutional Rights & Responsibilities Section program planners created a comprehensive curriculum for Section members to use when volunteering in the classroom. NCBF staff conducted outreach and coordinated schedules with teachers who were eager to supplement their own civics lessons with the knowledge of a practicing attorney. Classroom visits were scheduled throughout September, reaching a number of middle and high schools in the Central NC area.

This was a great idea and wonderful experience and one I hope we can do it again sometime. Our students really enjoyed it and I believe got something out of it.

– Chris Lappa, Social Studies teacher, Cedar Ridge High School

Support for Constitution Day and other civic education-focused programming is made possible through generous gifts to the Annual Fund of the North Carolina Bar Foundation: www.ncbarfoundation.org/donate.