By Brooke McAfee
The constitutional government team experienced both a successful competition and an educational trip on their recent visit to Washington, D.C. for the We the People National Invitational. The team placed first in the high school division on April 7.
Constitutional government is a class offered first semester, but the students continued competing after the class had ended. Government teacher Suzanne Moss explained that when students take this elective, they become constitutional experts and compete at district and state level, and then they may earn the opportunity to go on to national level. Moss expressed her happiness at her students’ ranking first.
“I was just so proud of my students. Most of them I don’t even have this semester in class, and they put so much work into their opening statements and were prepared to compete,” she said.
The team, which is broken up into units of two or three students, requires extensive knowledge of the constitution and American government.
“What the students do is they prepare an opening statement that addresses a constitutional question, and then they do tons of background research to not only prepare their opening statement, but then be able to defend it,” said Moss.
The students are questioned on a variety of subjects, such as political philosophy’s impact on the founding of the United States, Lincoln’s role in the Civil War, and many others.
Senior Savannah Wormley participated in with the constitutional government team, and expressed her excitement at winning the national invitational.
“I couldn’t believe it. I really couldn’t. It was really exciting because all of the hard work paid off…we had such a difficult time at state… we didn’t win at state, and we were upset because we thought we had a really good team, so going up to Washington and winning was just like the ultimate satisfaction. It was the best thing that could happen.”
Wormley said it has been an inspirational experience for her, because it has given her a love for civic education and has made her think about possibly pursuing a career in politics or law. She said she also enjoyed the friendships she formed with the group.
“There was something about our team. Everyone got along. We worked so well together, and there was something about being part of a team that was really nice as well.”
Involvement with this team creates challenges such as working hard to become an expert on certain topics, according to senior Jennifer Martin.
“You need to do a lot of research. You need to read a lot of things. You really need to dig deep into stuff… you can’t just read something- you really need to think about it and be able to present it effectively.”
Additionally, this trip provided the opportunity for the students to explore Washington, D.C. and other major sites in the area.
“We saw so many things. We got a private tour from our congressman of the Capitol, we went to Mount Vernon and saw the Smithsonian…so it really was a chance to experience living history,” said Moss.
Senior Jerry Lacross said he enjoyed visiting Washington D.C. for the first time.
“I had never been before, so it was really cool to see the monuments and museums,” he said.
Martin, who had been to Washington, D.C. before, said visiting it was particularly enlightening after becoming more informed about politics and the government.
“It was awesome, because whenever I went again I knew so much about the Constitution and American politics… I knew a lot more than when I previously visited D.C.- it was a good experience,” she said.
Moss stated that this group gives students valuable skills and knowledge.
“I think it’s beneficial because students really have to know their constitutional studies and they have to not only understand it, but explain it and defend it, and pull current events that are basically pertaining to their area of study,” she said.
Martin said she loved everything about her involvement with the constitutional government team, and said it has given her knowledge that will be useful as an American citizen.
“I think the best part was that I learned so much about the Constitution and American politics and our constitutional rights, and it helped me really educate myself as a voter and a citizen.”