Members of Challenger Middle School's mock congressional hearing team have an opportunity to showcase their civic knowledge next month in Washington D.C., but will have to overcome a financial obstacle.

The group needs to raise $9,000 in the next two weeks to compete in the national finals of the We the People mock congressional hearings May 3-7 at George Mason University.

The program allows students to demonstrate their understanding of the U.S. Constitution, congressional committees and procedures associated with hearings.

Challenger would be one of six middle schools from around the country to take part in the event, said team adviser Norma Higuera-Trask, who teaches social studies, English and history at the school.

Higuera-Trask and her students have raised $13,500 in the last six weeks but are scrambling to find the rest of the money, she said.

It costs $1,673 to sponsor one student.

The group has contacted more than 40 businesses, organizations and foundations, and has set up a donation box at the school.

A couple of students have even contributed their own money for the cause.

The two biggest donations, from the Fund for Freedom and Democracy and a California investment company, have come from out of state.

There are 12 students on the team, broken into three groups, who hope to attend the national finals.

They are required to know the Bill of Rights, how bills are passed and landmark Supreme Court cases, among other information.

When the students conduct hearings at the finals, they testify as constitutional experts before a panel of judges acting as congressional committees.

Not only do they have to use information from the Constitution to prove their point, but they must refer to current events, Higuera-Trask said.

"The bottom line is, this is an intense competition," she said. "It's like the Super Bowl or NBA playoffs of civics."

Challenger's representatives scored well in a state showcase at Grand Canyon University in January, paving the way for the national competition.

However, the group suffered a setback when Desert Diamond Casinos did not grant a request for $11,500 to assist with the team's travel.

Higuera-Trask has sent out a solicitation letter, hoping a business or organization will help send the students to the competition.

She described the national finals as a "once in a lifetime" opportunity for her students.

"This is every parent's dream. It's taking what children learn in the classroom and actually applying it in real-world terms and real-world experiences," she said.

If you'd like to give ...

Those who want to make a donation to Challenger Middle School's mock congressional team should make checks payable to the "Challenger Middle School PTO" and write "We the People" in the memo section of the check.

Checks should be mailed to: Norma Jean Higuera-Trask, Challenger Middle School, C/O We the People D.C., 100 E. Elvira Road, Tucson, Ariz. 85756.

Donors who sponsor a student for $1,673 will receive the name of their organization or business on the back of a team T-shirt and acknowledgement in any news releases.

Contributors will also receive credit in a video that will be shown to Sunnyside Unified School District employees.

For more information, call Norma Higuera-Trask at 545-4690, 545-4600 or send an email to

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at or 573-4242. On Twitter: @JamarYounger