The Foothill team walked away with the first-place title at the first competition of the season, a district event held Dec. 5 at DeVry University in Fremont. Foothill edged out Amador Valley's nationally ranked We the People team with Fremont's Irvington High School taking third place.
The roles were flipped at the next event, a regional competition held Dec. 9 at the Santa Clara County education office. Irvington took first place, followed by Amador and Foothill. Yerba Buena High School of San Jose also competed at that event.
"It's an excellent start," teacher Jeremy Detamore said. "The competition that we won had some really high-quality judges that asked some deep questions of the kids. It was gratifying to see that their work paid off and they could share their in-depth knowledge of the Constitution."
The regional competition was a real nail-biter with the top three teams all scoring within just three points of each other. Irvington barely edged out Amador by just half a point with scores of 1966.5 and 1966. Foothill squeaked in just 2.5 points behind Amador with a score of 1963.5.
"It’s pretty unprecedented because overall because there are 2,000 points available over the course of the day," Detamore said. "So to be just three points away among the three teams is remarkable."
We the People is both a class and a competitive team where students become experts on the Constitution. Competitions are simulated congressional hearings where students prepare testimony and must defend their cases before a panel of judges.
Foothill's team has 27 students who are grouped in three five-student units and three four-student units. Each unit has an area in which they specialize.
"The first unit specializes the history and the philosophy of Constitution, and the last unit focuses on the Constitution in the 21st century, so the other units focus on everything in between," Detamore explained.
We the People is a national program founded in 1987 by the Center for Civic Education. Amador's program started right away, but Foothill's program didn't get off the ground until 1998.
Nationally, the program was originally funded with federal dollars, but that funding ended a couple of years ago. In some states, bar associations have stepped up to foot the bill. In California, schools must fund their own programs.
The lack of funding means that the number of competitive teams in the state has dwindled to just a handful. That's why Bay Area competitions draw just a few schools and the state competition draws fewer than a dozen teams.
With the first two competitions behind them, students will now focus on material for the state competition in Sacramento in early February.
"I’m super happy with (the students)," Detamore said. "They are extremely hard workers and really want to improve their performance. They’re always striving to find ways to do things differently from other teams and to make themselves stand out. They’re a very, very dedicated bunch. I’m very happy to be working with them."
We the People students are Alyosha Bendebury, Karen Chang, Jerry Cheng, Karbi Choudhury, Jasper Edwards, Kelsey Emery, Priya Gambhir, Olivia Hartjen, Rachel Herzog, Bryce Hwang, Charles Jin, Alex Keir, Fiona Lau, Roxy Moran, Charlie Morris, Marius Mueller, Melissa Muller, Elizabeth Peng, Jacob Richey, Jack Simmons, Jamie Suk, Chanel Vismara, Priyanka Walimbe, Yandi Wu, Alicia Yang, Kevin Yi and Katrina Zhu.
By Zoe Francis
Top -- Teacher Jeremy Detamore gives students a pep talk before the district competition.
The entire We the People team.