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We the People Team Demonstrates Constitutional Knowledge at States

By Lauren Peller

We The People Constitution Team (WTP) is a unique course that involves both the AP U.S. Government and Politics curriculum in conjunction with the WTP program. The WTP program divides the class into six “units” in which each group prepares a four minute opening statement in response to two congressional hearing ques- tions. In order to prepare for the February 11th state competition in Albany, the WTP class practiced, prepared, and researched in and out of the classroom. The team participated in a regional competition this past December and also in a mock competition judged by Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Michelle Pitman and Attorney Lois Rowan. At the regional mock competi- tion, each unit presented speeches and responded to follow-up questions from the judges. WTP Student Anne-Marie Tehn-Addy said, “The regional and mock competition both were helpful ways to prepare for the state competi- tion, and each one of us received con- structive criticism that helped us im- prove for the next time we presented.” As the WTP students headed into their state competition in Albany, they were content that their extensive preparation would support them in Albany. WTP student Marlie Androsiglio said, “My unit and I were not nervous for the competition. We were excited to speak with the judges about our topic of balancing branches of government and share our knowledge. Mr. Pitman prepared us extremely well and steered us in the right direction with regard to crafting our speech and follow ups.”

Historically speaking, HSE’s WTP team has typically performed at a high level under the guidance of Mr. David Pitman our AP Government and WTP teacher. Mr. Pitman works closely with each unit to prepare us for any curve ball or obstacle that we might face. He has each unit immerse themselves into research, including learning special court cases and understanding sections of the Constitution. In February, we earned a “Third Place” award at the state competition. This year’s competition was tough, but our class performed and carried themselves professionally throughout the duration of the competition. When asked about the results at the state competition, Mr. Pitman said “The We The People competition in New York State is very competitive. Schools across the state are committed to the curriculum and spend a tremendous amount of time preparing for the state competition. This year’s We The People team should be proud of what they accomplished. They finished third in the state. Although this was not their goal, they succeeded in pushing themselves beyond their comfort levels through acquiring an in-depth knowledge of the Constitution and citizenship and learning how to engage in civil discourse. It is this last piece that I am most proud of: high school students modeling civil discourse is an encouraging sign for the future of our democracy.” Congratulations to the entire team on a job well done at both Regionals and States!

The keynote speaker for this year’s competition was Christopher R. Riano, a Constitutional Law and Government professor at Columbia University and practicing Lawyer. He gave a speech that emphasized the importance of engaging in civil discourse and the ability to have an in-depth understanding of the U.S. Constitution at such a young age. He remarked on how truly lucky we are to have such a strong comprehension of constitutional law during such a tumultuous time period.

As a dedicated member of the team, I can most definitely appreciate the benefits of gaining a depth of understanding of our Constitution. Although nding scholarly resources takes both time and dedication, I had the opportunity to delve into history and evaluate the current impact of voting rights and the voting process. Our individual unit became passionate about our topic, and we incorporated a tremendous amount of enthusiasm into our speeches. In addition to the specific knowledge that the members of the WTP team have gained, we now have a greater appreciation for current events and politics. This class taught us how to speak eloquently and back up our assertions with specific facts. Our daily discussions kept us on our toes and kept us excited to attend class. This experience has been extremely rewarding for my peers and me. Most members of our team are truly passionate about government and politics. The knowledge we have gained and the insight with which we have been provided from WTP will likely never leave us. I am confident that they would join me in encouraging any junior interested in government and politics to consider participating in the “We the People” class.

Photo by Michelle Pitman