We the People Club Places Fifth at State Competition


Jack Tueting, Darius Mehta, and Opal Kendall were awarded as the best unit for WAHS.

Shannan McCance, Staff Writer

Representatives from Western Albemarle High School placed fifth in a “We the People” state competition on February 5th that provided students an opportunity to debate and discuss the history and importance of the U.S. Constitution. Assembled at the UVA Darden School of Business, they were put against students from eight other schools. Unit four, led by Jack Tueting, was awarded for their performance, following the tradition of honoring one unit from each school.

There were six groups of students from Western who have spent many meetings and hours researching, discussing, and practicing for this event. Everyone’s attendance is out of a love for learning about our government, with the club allowing them to advance their knowledge in the Constitution as they are put on the spot to analyze its philosophy and politics. 

But, unless you were in Henley Middle School in eighth grade and participated in a We the People there, you might have no idea what it consists of. Even then, it has much more depth than just a single class project.

Students like Sarah Haney enjoyed the competition in middle school; so once she discovered that the We the People club exists at WAHS, she joined to see how much farther she could go with the competition. To become a member, one would need to sign up at the club fair and attend all the meetings, where you are then put into a certain group–or unit–that each has a different focus than the other. 

Sarah is in unit two, which studies the Constitution and specifically, “what would have led our founding fathers to say or do some of the things they did,” she said. While her group looks deeper into the historical side of our government, others such as unit one dives into the philosophy.

There are many steps each group has to complete in order to be fully ready for the competition. Earlier on, the process includes familiarizing oneself with the assigned topic by, “researching our topic, checking on our writing process, drafting responses, asking our group members for feedback, and receiving feedback from our coaches,” Sarah said. 

Those coaches are Amelia Bochain and Pam Koury, who teach eighth grade Civics at Henley. As they guided their students through that We the People project in middle school, they do the same for their high schoolers in the club now. Closer to the competition, students rehearse and relieve feedback from the coaches.

Their intense effort culminated at the state competition last Saturday, where high schools around Virginia gathered after the regional competitions. Western qualified for states in the Northern Virginia regionals. 

“At the competitions we read precrafted responses to and answer questions asked by a panel of judges. We have four minutes to read the precrafted response and six minutes to answer follow up questions from the judges,” Sarah said. She continued to explain how there are follow-up questions from the judges about the original prompt, which lasts for about ten minutes. 

The panel then scores them, and tells each unit what they did well and what they could improve upon. The scores are based on the different components of the performance, such as their comprehension of the subject, the quality of their answers, and equal participation of every group member. 

At the closing ceremony inside the Darden Business School, the results of the entire competition are announced, as well as which unit achieved the highest score. Here, all of the high schools come together, tied by a common passion for debate and care for our government, celebrating the intellectual spirit of the Constitution.