State Champ We the People Team Heads to D.C.

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The We the People team on the floor of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston

Williston’s We the People team members for the second year in a row out-maneuvered their competition with their superior knowledge and application of civics concepts, securing the state championship. They will head to the national competition in the Washington, D.C., area this April to face teams from across the country.

The team studied and practiced doggedly this trimester, and the hard work paid off when the group met with success in Boston on January 28. Their advisor, AP US Government teacher Peter Gunn, praised the cohesiveness of the team, likening it to a troupe of actors who bond as they practice for a play, or a sports team. “It’s a formidable challenge, both intellectually and interpersonally,” he said.

Kevin O’Sullivan, Ellie Scott, and Shaela Chaires get ready for questioning.

On the day of the competition, the group is divided into groups of five, and comes prepared to answer four to six questions relating to the Constitution, Bill of Rights, or general government, in a setting resembling a Congressional hearing. Judges then follow up with a question that asks students to apply their knowledge to a new facet of a problem. The Williston team out-scored the second-place team by nine-tenths of a point, the narrowest victory in We the People history.

“In a time when an understanding of government seems vital, the engagement of students in the discussion of the structure, development, and process of government—well, I don’t know what we do that’s more important,” Gunn said. He added that when students feel a sense of competence and that they understand how their government works, they are more likely to participate in the democratic process: to keep up with news, to vote, to contact their elected officials, even to take our papers and run for office. Research shows that a high rate of We the People alumni find their way to elected local, state, and federal elected positions.

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WTP grads Alex Foster, Ava McElhone Yates, Tyler Greenwood, and Emma Reynolds flank Mr. Gunn, center.

As they prepared this fall and winter, the We the People team attracted a supportive community. Seniors Alex Foster, Ava McElhone Yates, Tyler Greenwood, and Emma Reynolds, who participated last year, helped coach team members this year. Numerous alumni and parents also helped students on their path to become state champs.

But students were not chained to their desks as they prepared for the competition. Students were out at rallies, attended the Presidential inauguration, and canvassed door to door. They developed their political ideas in a climate that did not take sides, Gunn said, but encouraged critical and independent thinking on issues both from the past that are still relevant today—such as laws that pertain to Native Americans—and current policies and programs, such as the Affordable Care Act. As team members, listed below, move on to the next phase in Washington, we send the them our warmest congratulations!

Fiona Bundy ’18
Josh Calianos ’18
Jesse Cassuto ’17
Shaela Chaires ’18
Vikram Dalmiya ’18
Megan Fydenkevez ’18
Brendan Hansen ’18
Anna Harvey ’18
Shana Hecht
Oliver Lawrence ’18
Kevin O’Sullivan ’18
Sara Renkert ’18
Natalie Romain ’18
Ellie Scott ’18
Triniti Slaughter ’18
Sophie Carellas ’18
Sofia Flores ’18
Madison Fulcher-Melendy ’18
Jerry Gao ’17
Josh Holmberg ’18
Gabriel Moon ’18
Katie Most ’18
Roya Mostafavi ’18
Jack Phelan ’18
Erika Sasaki ’18
A’kayla Williams ’18
Harrison Winrow ’18
Derrick Zhao ’18
Shirley Zhou ’18

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