Trumbull's 'We the People' team are state champions

Trumbull High School students, led by teacher Katie Boland, are once again state champions of the We the People: The Citizen and Constitution competition.

Boland’s AP/ECE Government class of 24 students won the State Championship on Dec. 18, only they didn’t know they won at first. Boland told the Trumbull Town Council last week that, due to a simple math error, the team wasn’t initially announced as winners and didn’t get the news until after the competition. It came as a pleasant surprise to students, Boland said.

“It was like we won the Super Bowl,” Boland told the council.

The students began their preparation at the start of the school year as they became experts, testifying on constitutional issues in a simulated congressional hearing.

Now in its twenty-seventh year, the competition involved entire classes making presentations and answering questions on constitutional topics from around the state. The teams were judged not only on the content of their opening statement, but also their ability to answer follow up questions from a panel of judges both with opinion and fact. Trumbull High School competed against teams from St. Joseph’s High School (Trumbull), Greenwich High School, Immaculate High School (Danbury), South Windsor High School, and Torrington High School. Trumbull came in first place making this Boland’s third straight victory at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Connecticut.

“When I first joined the class, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” senior Camilla Edwards said. “But as soon as we split into units, gathering information and studying court cases wasn’t just for a grade — it was for a title that mattered to us, our teacher, and our peers.”

Besides doing research and collaboration, students also had the opportunity to practice in competition-like settings at the high school and the Town Hall Council Chambers. Local lawyers, college professors, judges, politicians, Trumbull ACE Board Members, and teachers and administrators from Trumbull High, Hillrest and Madison Middle Schools served as judges to give students feedback and tips for improvement.

“The We The People competition was a very rewarding experience,” senior Kunal Jhaveri said. “Preparing for the completion not only taught me the fundamentals about the U.S. Constitution, it required me to apply what I learned to both a historical as well as a modern context. The competition was intellectually challenging. Preparing for the competition also developed my public speaking, critical thinking, and team collaborating skills. It was my best experience at Trumbull High.”

The team now advances to the national finals to be held in Washington D.C. from April 25 to 29 to compete against teams from all over the country. Ms. Boland’s 2013 team came in 8th place in the nation and they hope to do even better this year. The class has a new set of questions to prepare and more research to be done in order to attain success on the national stage.

“When I signed up for We the People, I was expecting to improve my public speaking skills and expand on my love of history,” senior Caroline Drenkard said. “What I wasn’t expecting was that this team would become a family. We’ve seen each other grow beyond stutters and filler words; our worst performances to our best. When it seemed like we lost, our bond became even stronger. Now that we actually won, I think we’re all excited to go through the process again and represent our family, our school, and our town on the national level.”

The team members are: Lekha Alaparthi, Miles Buroker, Samuel Carley, Jacob Cohen, Madeleine Collins, Steven Costello, Brett Cousins, Caroline Drenkard, Camilla Edwards, Kristen Gregory, Jake Horowitz, Beena Jacob, Kunal Jhaveri, Keshav Khazanchi, Maneesh Koneru, Larissa Mark, Chitra Nidadavolu, Hailey Pekera, Aleksandra Pirog, Jacqueline Rose, Rakshana Selvarajan, William Sun, Maxwell Wu, and Jack Zhang.