UPDATE: Trumbull High's We the People come in eighth place at nationals

Tuesday — Trumbull High School's We the People team landed 8th place in the national competition.

Monday, 4/29 —Trumbull High School is advancing to the championship round of the 2013 We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution National Finals on Monday, April 29. Ten classes will vie for first place in the academic competition, where students demonstrate their constitutional knowledge during simulated congressional hearings. The championship round will take place in congressional hearing rooms on Capitol Hill. Trumbull High is scheduled to compete today from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Nearly 1,400 high school students from 45 states and the District of Columbia have gathered in Washington, D.C., to participate in the 26th Annual We the People National Finals. The initial field of 56 classes has been reduced to 10 finalists based on the combined scores of each class over the past two days of intense examination of their constitutional knowledge.

In the competition, students demonstrate their knowledge of constitutional issues before simulated congressional committees composed of constitutional scholars, lawyers, historians and public officials. Students complete a comprehensive course of study on the Constitution to qualify for the competition.

Awards will be presented to the first- through 10th-place classes and to the top-scoring non-finalist classes for each of the six units of curriculum and in each of five geographic regions. The George Mason Award will be given to the class with the highest score in answering a question about the Founder from Virginia, who drafted the first Virginia state constitution, authored the Virginia Declaration of Rights and served as a delegate at the Constitutional Convention. The awards ceremony will take place on Monday evening at the Center for the Arts Concert Hall at George Mason University.

More information about the We the People the Citizen and the Constitution Program is available at http://new.civiced.org/programs/wtp.

The 2013 We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution National Finals is partially funded by the tremendous effort of teachers, students, parents, and We the People state coordinators to secure community sponsors. Funding is also provided by the Center for Civic Education, state donors, and the Fund for Freedom and Democracy in honor of the Honorable Patricio M. Serna, justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Original story: Those looking to get into an intelligent debate on constitutional law or some of the hot-button issues facing our nation today, would likely find a worthy opponent in any of the 24 students on Trumbull High School’s We the People team.

The students are state champions and are headed to the national We the People high school competition this weekend in Washington, D.C., where they will participate in a simulated congressional hearing, judged by professors, state supreme court justices and legal scholars.

The students are in teacher Katie Boland’s Advanced Placement government class, and won the state competition in December.

“Now in its 26th year, the competition involved entire classes making presentations and answering questions on constitutional topics before a panel of judges from around the state,” Boland said. “The teams were judged on the content of their opening statement, their ability to answer questions with both opinion and fact, and overall presentation.”

They won the competition on Dec. 14, the same day as the Sandy Hook school shooting, which made celebrating their accomplishment difficult. But Boland said it provided a bit of sunshine on a tragic day, giving the town something to be proud of.

“We actually found out about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School while we were in the middle of the competition,” she said. “We didn’t know the full details or any answers about the shooting, but the students were able to put their questions and thoughts aside and concentrate on the competition.”

Since the win in December, the students have been raising funds for the trip to Washington and preparing for nationals.

“The team had to prepare a whole new set of questions and develop their background knowledge on the topics,” Boland said. “They have to keep up to date with current events like the gun control debate happening in Congress and the recent Supreme Court hearings on same-sex marriage.

“The team practiced for the competition in class and on their own time,” she said.

In addition, they had a “Night of the Experts” at Town Hall on Wednesday, in which local officials like First Selectman Timothy Herbst and state Sen. Anthony Musto, to name a couple, questioned the students in a simulated hearing.

While the competition was intense, the class is also perfect for people with interests in government and politics.

“I have always been interested in studying government on a higher level than the basics, and I thought, Why wait until college to do that when I can do that competitively in high school? said team member Jason Nagel.

Team member Alicia Forsyth agreed.

“I know taking this class is going to help me in the long run, as I am planning on majoring in political science in college,” Forsyth said. “I have learned so much already between the actual curriculum of the course and from the competitions. I definitely recommend this class to anyone who is interested.”

The team members are Kevin Bielicki, Quynh-Nhu Dao, Tyler Davis, Matthew Ferraro, Alicia Forsyth, Augustine Haam, Gulrukh Haroon, Madeline Krahn, Christopher LoBosco, Ryan McEniry, Nikhil Mistry, Erin Moore, Tyler Morin, Jason Nagel, Vishakha Negi, Jeffrey Netting, Ryan Norton, Marissa Piccolo, Erin Puglia, Justin Puzzio, Kevin Rivera, Molli Rosen, Lauren Shear, and Zach Teixeira.

“Winning made everything that we had worked for completely worth it,” team member Molli Rosen said of states. “All the sleepless school nights and late Sundays that we had hated before became completely irrelevant. We did this for each other, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

The national competition runs April 26-29. The competition will be conducted on the campus of George Mason University and in hearing rooms on Capitol Hill.

Staff of The Eagle’s Eye at Trumbull High contributed to this report. See more at thseagleseye.com.