Karla Velasco wins Know Your Constitution Contest
by Margaret Hurlbert
January 31, 2023

WEST LIBERTY, Iowa–This year, West Liberty High School senior Karla Velasco decided to try something different. She signed up for government, the first in-person social studies class she had ever done due to taking online classes at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. She quickly found that she enjoyed the class and the different topics they studied. “Just learning about our government, how it came to be and how it checks itself–it’s just amazing how our government works,” she said. To take her learning even further, Karla entered the Iowa State Bar Association’s Know Your Constitution Contest. A statewide contest, Karla distinguished herself by earning first place this year.

A challenging contest, students who enter into the Know Your Constitution Contest must complete both a 50 question test about the constitution and write an essay deciding if a court case represents a violation of a person’s constitutional rights or not. This year’s case focused on whether a school could discipline a student who wore a jacking with profanity on it not permitted under the school’s dress code at a non-school sponsored event. Using a recent court case, Karla successfully argued the student in the case had his first amendment free speech rights violated.

Karla felt extremely excited to have won the contest. At first, she did not believe she did. After submitting her materials and not hearing back about her results before winter break, she assumed she had not won any awards. However, when checking email on her phone after school recently, she discovered she had won, to the delight of herself and her teacher. “I was surprised!” she shared.

Karla Velasco with her Know Your Constitution certificate and

Jan. 20, Karla attended a ceremony presented by the Iowa State Bar Association to honor the top winners. Each of them received a medal and a certificate celebrating their achievements. They also did a drawing to provide several scholarships to top placers. Karla did not have her name drawn.

Though the event felt a little overwhelming, Karla felt glad she attended: “It was an honor. I was a little intimidated because there were a lot of students there and some of them were probably smarter than me, but it was exciting to be there with my teacher.

After graduating from high school, Karla plans to attend Iowa State University to study engineering. Though she has not completely decided which specific type of engineering she would like to focus on, she believes she would especially like to study civil engineering. Though taking government and entering the Know Your Constitution Contest do not directly tie to her future major and career interests, she found the process of preparing for it and developing arguments educational and enjoyable, and she hopes other students taking government will give it a try, especially because younger students may enter several years in a row.

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