In Washington, the Amador students will be tested on their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights by a panel of judges well versed in the subject. The top teams from other states will vie for the top honor during presentations on April 27-29 with the winning team to be announced at a banquet on the final night. The competition will be conducted on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax County, Va., and in hearing rooms on Capitol Hill.
Members of the We the People team, their coaches, school leaders and community and parent supporters are now launching a fundraising campaign for the $50,000 it will cost to go to Washington. The program is totally self-funded and doesn't receive any money from Amador Valley High or the school district. In fact, the We the People portion of competition civics is only taught during the seniors' first semester, unlike in some other states where it's a year-long program.
That means that the teachers and students must meet after school, evenings and on weekends to study together, test each other, practice and rehearse how they will respond to sets of questions provided by the national We the People organization. Because the course is taught in the first semester only, the team can't even start to raise funds for a Washington trip because the state finals, where the state winner is announced, doesn't occur until February. That makes it even tougher on the teacher-coaches and the students who now must scramble to raise the funds needed for the trip while also continuing to refine their skills on the Constitution.
Ladd and Wohlgemuth will get help in preparing for the finals from Jeremy Detamore, who coached the team from Foothill, where he is a world history and economics teacher, and Pleasanton City Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio, who coached the team from Irvington High, where she teaches U.S. government and honors economics. In fact, Cook-Kallio said at Tuesday night's City Council meeting that her team would help raise funds for Amador and she has offered her help in the Amador team's practice sessions. Also at the council meeting, Councilman Jerry Pentin said his Pleasanton North Rotary Club would donate $500 toward the Washington trip and a bicycle riding group he's on will add another $500. Timing is important because Ladd said the group will have to have the funds on hand in early April to book reservations for the trip.
I'll admit to being a big booster of the Amador We the People team. My grandson Jordan Nally is on this year's state championship team and my son Chris Bing was on the 1995 team that won the national competition that year in Washington. I also know firsthand about the late night hours these students put in week after week leading up to the competition, reviewing papers, books and data about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the authors of those documents.
Hundreds of students from high schools across the country participate in We the People competitions at the local and then state levels, demonstrating their understanding of the Constitution before a simulated congressional committee consisting of constitutional scholars, lawyers, civic educators and government leaders who judge their classes' performances. The judges test the students' comprehension of the material prepared by the national organization. Officially called "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution," the program has reached more than 30 million students and 90,000 teachers since its inception in 1987. Two years ago, the Congress declined to fund the Education for Democracy Act, leaving individual states and school districts to continue the program on their own. They made this decision after independent research showed that high school students who participated in the We the People program scored 30% higher than matched comparison government classes on a comprehensive test that measured understanding of core values and principles of democracy.
You can help the Amador We the People team by sending a tax deductible donation to Amador Valley Comp Civics, 1155 Santa Rita Road, Pleasanton 94566.