|Amador Valley High School's competition civics team was named the 4th place winner Monday night in the national "We the People" competition in Washington, D.C.
The announcement of the top 10 winning teams came at an awards banquet for all 51 high school teams at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. More than 1,500 students, teachers, coordinators, judges and other program participants were in the audience.
Amador, which won the state championship earlier this year and again represented California in the national competition, trailed East High School of Denver, Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies of Richmond, Va. and Grant High School of Portland, Ore. in the contest.
For the 29 seniors from Amador, the banquet marked the end of 11 months of studies on the Constitution and Bill of Rights as part of the Competition Civics class taught by veteran social studies teacher Brian Ladd, the Pleasanton school district's Teacher of the Year in 2006. The competition civics class lasts only for the first semester, so the students had to meet after school and on weekends as they prepared for We the People competitions.
Amador has become one of the better known high schools on Capitol Hill, finishing second in the national contest in the last two consecutive years and one of the top 10 schools nationally in 1992, 1994, 1996, 2000 and 2004, and now, in 2008. It won the national title in 1995.
The annual "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution" is considered one of the country's most prestigious academic competitions for high schools
Students on this year's team were Vincent Buscarello, Joel Detweiler, Stoney Glover, William Grau, Margaret Haupt, Kristyn Hayashi, Genevieve Hoffman, Pooja Jaeel, Udani Kadurugamuwa, Teresa Machado, Erica Miranda, Sarah Moellering, Lanz Nalagan, Joshua Pann, Shannon Parker, Jeyshree Ramachandran, Devi Santhosh, Kevin Sasek, Alexander Schlick, Ryan Seams, Amaan Shaikh, Siddarth Somanathan, Yichuan Sun, Kristopher Tayyeb, Corinne Tu, Alan Wang, Terri Wang, Tony Wang and Curtis Wong.
The first rounds of the competition took place on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, the top-10 schools met on Capitol Hill. Students demonstrated their knowledge of the Constitution before simulated congressional committees made up of constitutional scholars, lawyers, journalists, and public officials.
The panel of judges tested the expertise of the classroom teams on the six units of the "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution" text. Questions included: What are the philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system? How did the framers create the Constitution? How did the values and principles embodied in the Constitution shape American institutions and practices? How have the protections of the Bill of Rights been developed and expanded? What rights does the Bill of Rights protect? What are the roles of the citizen in American democracy?
"We had an excellent day in the final round," Ladd said. "The hearing was held in the magnificent Senate Intelligence hearing room in the Senate Hart Building. Congressman McNerney (D-Pleasanton) was represented by one of his aides, Eric Halstrom, who was tremendous in helping us in Washington this weekend."
"The performance of the students was truly outstanding," Ladd added. "I have never had a better final round performance from a team. At the end, the students soaked in the atmosphere of the room and the incredible 11-month experience that they had gone through, and many had trouble holding back their emotions. The students have collectively given tens of thousands of hours in preparation, and have been under some of the greatest academic pressures a person could face."
After their final presentations on Monday, the Amador group headed to the State Department for a special tour. Tuesday, the group met again with McNerney for a photo on the Capitol steps and then toured the Supreme Court building and other federal government and capital sites. The group will return to Pleasanton Wednesday.
"All in all, the experience was tremendous," Ladd said. "The students will take with them the knowledge that they were part of an incredible team experience that will help them with the rest of their lives. Any obstacle they face down the road, all 29 of them will be able to always hold their heads high with pride."
"I am the most fortunate educator/coach in the country today because I have had the opportunity to work with 29 amazing young adults who will be a factor in our future," Ladd added. "I am as proud as all of their parents are and the city of Pleasanton should be very proud of our students and know that our future is in great hands!"
"We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution" features an intensive curriculum that provides students with 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.
When combined with the companion, noncompetitive elementary and middle school programs, more than 30 million students have participated in the program during the past 21 years. Developed and administered by the Los Angeles-based Center for Civic Education, the program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education under the Education for Democracy Act approved by Congress.
- Jeb Bing
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