Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - May 2, 2014

Amador Valley High: 2nd in U.S. civics competition

Amador Valley High School's "We the People" team returned home this week to cheers and congratulations from parents and supporters, ending a six-day trip to Washington, D.C., where Amador placed second in the national finals out of schools from all other states and the District of Columbia.

The students, all part of the Competition Civics class, and social studies teacher and coach Brian Ladd deserve the community's thanks for their many hours of study, research and practice since last September, leading up to last Monday night's awards ceremony in Washington. Now it's back to the books in all their other courses as team members take Advanced Placement tests and final exams as their graduation days approach.

This was the 13th time Amador Valley has represented California in the We the People national competition. The school's team won the state championship last February and since has been meeting after school, on weeknights and weekends preparing for the national finals.

Amador won the nationals in 1995, but this year that top honor went to students from Lincoln High School in Portland, Ore. The competition results were announced at an awards ceremony Monday evening before an audience of more than 1,900 students, teachers, coordinators, judges and other program participants.

The students had just completed three days of simulated congressional hearings that tested their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. 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 Saturday and Sunday. Monday, the top 10 schools competed in actual congressional hearing rooms on Capitol Hill.

Officially known as the "We the People: The Citizens and the Constitution," the program promotes civic competence and responsibility among the nation's upper elementary and secondary students. It enjoys active support from state bar associations and foundations, and other educational, professional, business and community organizations across the nation. Since its inception in 1987, more than 28 million students and 75,000 educators have participated in the We the People program.

Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-3rd District) perhaps summed up the value of the program best after spending a major portion of the weekend watching young constitutional scholars compete in the competition.

"It was an amazing experience watching these young men and women debating the fine points of our Constitution," he said. "It was fascinating to contemplate what was going on in the much broader context in terms of what this represented. Everybody was a winner: the student constitutional scholars, their dedicated coaches and teachers. Most important, America was winning."

Amador Valley seniors who made presentations in Washington (see photo on p. 5) were Bianca Bacaltos, Eric Chan, Naomi Chan, Alexandra Gonsman, Domnall Hegarty, Daniel Huang, Liana Huynh, Nisha Kale, Almas Khan, Kathryn Kitayama, Shilpa Krish, Emily Lu, Armin Mahini, John Malchar, Kaitlyn Mallie, Kabir Sethi, Lillian Sun, Jennifer Teitell, Kristina Vateva, Rose Wang, Jarry Xiao, Christine Xu, Jennifer Yip and Tandy Yuan.

In addition to Portland's Lincoln High and Amador Valley, the other 2014 We the People award winners, in order of placement, were: Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies in Virginia, Fishers High School in Indiana, Vestavia Hills High School in Alabama, East Grand Rapids High School in Michigan, Grandview High School in Colorado, Maine Township South High School in Illinois, Corona del Sol High School in Arizona and Highlands High School in New Mexico.

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