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Indy Education: Vegas students vie in We the People civics competition national finals

Plus: Secretary of Education explores Southern Nevada teacher apprenticeship program, and the City of Las Vegas offers summer camp opportunities.
Rocio Hernandez
Rocio Hernandez
EducationK-12 Education

Good morning, and welcome to the Indy Education newsletter. I’m Rocio Hernandez, The Nevada Independent’s K-12 education reporter. 

This newsletter provides a recap of the latest education stories and highlights interesting educators, students, programs and other events and resources throughout the state. Click here to subscribe to the newsletter and receive it each week via email.

I want to hear from you! Send questions, comments or suggestions on what I should be covering to [email protected]

News briefs

Students participate in a 2022 science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) summer camp by the City of Las Vegas. (City of Las Vegas/Courtesy)

☀️ Registration opens for City of Las Vegas summer camps — The City of Las Vegas is offering 12-week summer day camps for youths ages 3-15 across the city. The camps will be held from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays May 21-Aug. 9, 2024. Camp activities will include arts and crafts, sports, games, music, life skills, physical fitness and fun. Visit the city’s website for information on registration, locations, price and more. 

School Spotlight

Teacher Ryan Handlon speaks with his students at West Career & Technical Academy in Las Vegas on April 3, 2024. (Rocio Hernandez/The Nevada Independent)

Las Vegas high school seniors diving into the U.S. Constitution, policy as part of We the People civics education program

A team of about 30 students at West Career & Technical Academy (WCTA) are spending the week cramming as much U.S. constitutional and policy knowledge as possible in preparation for the We the People national finals in the Washington, D.C., area. 

During the competition, the high school students will showcase their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and American government in simulated congressional hearings in which students "testify" before a panel of judges that can include lawyers and politicians acting as members of Congress.

“It's incredible because the students who've been in for six months are getting cross-examined by lawyers and judges who've been doing it for decades,” said WCTA teacher Ryan Handlon. 

This year, three teams from Nevada will represent the Silver State at the national finals: Reno High School in Reno, Incline High School in Incline Village and WCTA in Las Vegas. They placed first, second and third, respectively, in the state competition in February in Reno. 

It’s WCTA’s second time going to the national finals in the last two years, and the fourth time in 23 years that a team from Southern Nevada has been asked to be one of the teams to represent the state at the national competition. (WCTA and Canyon Springs High School competed in the 2022 National Finals. Canyons Springs also competed in the 2015 finals.)

WCTA’s team is made up of 30 seniors from Handlon’s government class. 

Students Eva Toplak and James Palmquist V were encouraged to join the team by classmates who have taken part in the program and by family members who are lawyers, but neither is interested in joining the legal profession. Toplak said she’s planning to pursue a career in medicine, and Palmquist is aiming to become an astrophysicist. Still, they both believe it’s important to be educated in civics to be an informed citizen. 

“Most of us aren't even old enough to vote and we already know more than I think even my own parents do,” Toplak said. 

“We've seen a lot of partisan division recently, and this program is a great way to help you find your own opinion and understand that people can have separate opinions and that you can respect them without feeling like you're being personally attacked,” Palmquist said. 

Handlon said he’s noticed that since the pandemic participation in the We The People program has dwindled in Southern Nevada from about 20-30 teams to less than 10 teams that competed in the state finals. He hopes WCTA’s participation in the national competition will inspire schools to retake the program or join for the first time. 

WCTA is looking to raise $20,000 to help fund the team’s trip to Washington, D.C. Information on how to support the team can be found on the Nevada Center for Civic Engagement’s website

Have a student or staffer who we should feature in the next edition of School Spotlight? Share your nominations with me at [email protected].

Reading Assignments

Teacher attacked at Las Vegas high school by student files lawsuit

A former teacher who suffered life-threatening injuries after she was attacked by a student at Eldorado High School in Las Vegas has filed a lawsuit nearly two years later. 

State board to launch survey on high school start times, abandons proposed regulation

The State Board of Education is preparing to launch a survey gathering feedback on later high school start times, but is no longer planning to pursue a regulation that would have allowed for the concept to be put into practice. 

Clark County School Board takes first step to kick off superintendent search

The Clark County School Board took its first official step in its search for a new superintendent Wednesday, approving a request for proposal to hire an individual or firm to assist it in the process. The board is looking to hire a new superintendent by Nov. 1 or earlier. 


🍎 Washoe County School Board meeting — Tuesday, April 9, 2 p.m. 

The agenda includes a presentation on the district’s tentative budget for the 2024-25 school year, and a review of the student and staff climate survey.  

🍎 Douglas County School Board meeting — Tuesday, April 9, 4 p.m. 

The agenda includes a discussion and possible action to appoint acting Superintendent Jeannie Dwyer to the role permanently, and a presentation on the district’s legal counsel, Joey Gilbert’s, contractual obligations

🍎 Clark County School Board meeting — Thursday, April 11, 5 p.m. 

The agenda includes a presentation and possible action on the tentative budget for the 2024-25 school year, and a public hearing on a proposed language change in the 2023-25 negotiated agreement between the Clark County School District and the Clark County Education Association. 

📕 Henderson Reads Book Festival — Saturday, April 20, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 

The City of Henderson is holding its third annual Henderson Reads Book Festival on Saturday, April 20, at the Water Street Plaza. The event is free to attend and will include live readings and discussions with 15 award-winning authors from diverse backgrounds and cultures. 

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Congratulations to State Board of Education President Felicia Ortiz on this recognition


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