Trumbull ‘We the People’ team places 10th in the nation

TRUMBULL — Competing as part of Trumbull High School’s We the People team is an intellectual workout, said Matthew Esposito, 17.

“There’s a ton of research and a ton of preparation,” said Esposito, a senior. “It was a lot of critical thinking — you have to be able to think on your feet and respond to the judges.”

But all the preparation paid off for him and his teammates as they finished 10th out of 47 teams at the national We the People competition in Washington D.C. last weekend.

We the People is a competition in which students take part in mock Congressional hearings and are scored on such criteria as constitutional application, reasoning and supporting evidence. The Trumbull team is made up of seniors in Kathleen Boland’s AP American Government and Constitutional Studies class.

The Trumbull team won the state competition in February — the 26th time the school has achieved that honor. Boland said, though Trumbull High had placed in the top 10 at nationals eight times before, this year represents the first time the school has had back-to-back top 10 finishes. Last year, Trumbull’s team placed ninth in the national competition.

The team competed over the course of three days. On Monday, they were picked as one of the top 12 teams for the final competition, and Boland said the mood among them was “electric.”

“In the all the years I’ve been doing this, that was the top performance I have ever witnessed,” Boland said. “They just didn’t let moment get to them. They responded eloquently and passionately.”

The competition itself took place virtually, but Boland still took the team to Washington, as she has with previous teams (though last year’s team competed virtually from Trumbull High School). “I wanted to give them the same experience as past teams,” she said, adding that the team competed from the conference room at their hotel.

Team member Ella Cook, 17, said she enjoyed being in the nation’s capital.

“We were able to hang out and see the monuments and museums,” she said.

Like Esposito, Cook said the event was draining — but in a good way.

“It was a lot of stress and a lot of nerves, but that was what we had been preparing for for months and months coming to fruition,” she said.

Though Cook and Esposito both said they are interested in studying political science in college, Boland said even students who aren’t interested in a career in politics or law got something out of the program. “What they gain out of this class is how to be a good citizen,” she said.