Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) met with the Amador Valley High School advanced civics team yesterday on the steps of the Capitol to praise the students for their accomplishments in the 2011 "We the People" national competition.
After three days of simulated congressional hearings which tested their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the Amador students captured second place at the 24th annual "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution" national finals last night in Washington, D.C.
Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies of Richmond, Va., won first place.
During his meeting with the Amador students Tuesday, McNerney told them:
"The 'We the People' competition requires hard work, strong commitment and dedicated study of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Once again, students from our community rose to the challenge and led the way at the nationwide competition.
"I'm delighted to congratulate and honor the 'We the People' team from Amador Valley High School. Our entire community can be proud of their achievement."
It was the tenth time that Amador topped all other California teams in statewide competitions earlier this year and won the honor of representing the state in the national competition. The school fielded teams in the nationals in 1992, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 1995, Amador won the national championship.
We the People civics classes representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands came to the nation's capital to participate in the academic competition.
The competition results were announced at an awards banquet Monday evening before an audience of 1,500 students, teachers, coordinators, judges and other program participants. At the ceremony, the 2011 Dale E. Kildee Civitas Award was presented to U.S. Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts for his contributions to the field of civic education.
During the competition, students demonstrated their knowledge of the Constitution before simulated congressional committees made up of state Supreme Court judges, constitutional scholars, lawyers, public officials and We the People alumni. The first rounds of the hearings took place last Saturday, and then continued into Sunday. Today, the top 10 schools competed in actual congressional hearing rooms on Capitol Hill.
The panel of judges tested the expertise of the classes on the six units of the We the People textbook. They are: What Are the Philosophical and Historical Foundations of the American Political System? How Did the Framers Create the Constitution? How Has the Constitution Been Changed to Further the Ideals Contained in the Declaration of Independence? How Have the Values and Principles Embodied in the Constitution Shaped American Institutions and Practices? What Rights Does the Bill of Rights Protect? What Challenges Might Face American Constitutional Democracy in the Twenty-first Century?
Karen Whitaker of the Los Angeles-based Center for Civic Education said that the We the People program provides an intensive curriculum that offers students comprehensive instruction on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the principles and values they embody. The program is designed to promote an understanding of the rights and responsibilities of citizens in our constitutional democracy.
More than 30 million elementary, middle and high school students have participated in the program since its inception in 1987. Developed and administered by the Los Angeles center, the program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education under the Education for Democracy Act approved by Congress.
This year, the We the People program is being funded by state donors and The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation in partnership with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, as well as the Center for Civic Education
Other winners announced Monday night East Brunswick High School, East Brunswick, N.J, finishing in third place; Vestavia Hills High School, Vestavia Hills, Ala., fourth place; East Grand Rapids High School, Grand Rapids, Mich., fifth; Denver East High School, Denver, Colo., sixth; Grant High School, Portland, Ore., seventh; Northwest Guilford High School, Greensboro, N.C., eighth; Maine South High School, Park Ridge, Ill., ninth; and Munster High School, Munster, Ind., finishing in tenth place.