We The People Program to Form a More Perfect Student
It's the time of year when many high school seniors are feeling the draw of graduation and the effects of "senioritis." But for 26 Reno High School seniors preparing to represent Nevada on the national stage, there's no rest in sight.
These students are competing in the We The People program-- a federal program started in 1987 to give students a more thorough civic education. The students study the government, the Constitution, history, political theory, and current events.
Just a few weeks ago the students from Reno High used their knowledge to beat every other team in the state competition. In April they are going to nationals, and they let Channel 2 sit in on one of their classes.
"Now what has the Senate effectively done with Chuck Hagel?" teacher Richard Clark asked his students.
A handful called out: "Filibuster."
"And what is the idea that they really want to do with the filibuster?" Clark asked, calling on individual students with a rapid-fire "Go." In this class, students are expected to be ready to give answers immediately and defend them. It's in preparation for the style of competition they will face at nationals in Washington, DC.
Every day the We The People students run current events through a filter of knowledge they've built over a year of hard work. From the biggest Supreme Court cases to the smallest committees in Congress, the group has to know all the details.
Competition is intense and steep, with some of the top high schools in the country sending delegations. But it's not just about winning. The knowledge the students gain in the program, they say, has changed the way they see the world.
"It is more than just history and more than just how our government works," WTP senior Annette Challis said. "It is applicable. I can watch political news like FOX news or CNN and be like 'That's not right,' or 'That's right,' and apply it to the Constitution."
That is one big reason Clark started the program at RHS a few years ago.
"Our forefathers created this government at a time when we had a 96 percent literacy rate," the RHS Social Students Department Chair said. "Everyone was involved in politics. What they did was they read the newspaper and went and talked about it that night. We don't have that anymore."
Perhaps that is the case in most communities, but those discussions are certainly happening in this classroom. And in just a few weeks, the students will get to sit in on real congressional hearings, see laws being made firsthand, when they travel to DC.
"It is so exciting to be able just to know that we are representing our state at a national competition," WTP Senior Amanda Swanson said.
"They have worked so hard," Clark added. "They have done everything I have asked them to do. It means the world to them, and it is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience to them."
To make the trip to compete in nationals, this group has to raise about $40,000 by April 1, and they are asking for donations.
Checks can be sent to Reno High School, care of Richard Clark, at 395 Booth Street, Reno, NV 89509
For more information, call the high school at 333-5050, check out the RHS We The People Facebook page here, or the national program webpage here.
Sunday, May 26 2013 1:49 AM EDT2013-05-26 05:49:26 GMT
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