They’ve done it again.
A Brown County Junior High School civics team has won the state We the People championship for the sixth consecutive time.
“They did perfect. They did really great. They turned it on when they needed to,” teacher Michael Potts said.
The team held hands — and their breath — as they waited for the winners to be announced at the state finals Dec. 15 in Indianapolis. More than 700 students participated in this year’s competition, sponsored by the Indiana Bar Foundation.
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Unlike sports teams, the eighth-grade We the People team is full of new students each year.
The winners were announced about 30 minutes later than in previous years.
“They kept saying, ‘Well, we’re crunching the numbers. It’s really tight, it’s really tight.’ And so I am thinking, ‘It’s not good for us,’” Potts said.
The team ended up defeating their biggest opponent, Fishers Junior High School, by 56 points. St. Richards Episcopal in Indianapolis finished third.
Last year, Brown County beat Fishers by 21 points.
“It was closer last year, but still, that’s very close; 50 points is close,” Potts said.
“My heart just like fell out of me. It was just amazing,” team member Joey Drew said. “By that time, I kind of knew we either won or we did so bad that we didn’t get anything, and I didn’t think that was probably a possibility.”
“We were all really nervous about winning. A lot of us were holding hands and praying that we win. We were thinking, ‘What would we do if we got second?’” Katie Goodwin said.
The team members, who pride themselves on exhibiting class and dignity, kept their celebrating to a minimum.
“Mr. Potts told us to keep calm because other teams didn’t win and some of them didn’t place,” Goodwin said.
Still, “whenever they called our names for first we all jumped up and yelled,” Goodwin said.
Superintendent David Shaffer and Principal Brian Garman spoke to the class the day after their win.
“When you get to be as old as I am, there aren’t a lot of things that really give you a thrill,” Shaffer said. “I was kind of anxiously waiting last night for Mr. Garman’s text message about how you did. When I got that message I just about jumped off the couch. I was so excited.”
Teammates’ sights are now set on the national competition in Washington next spring.
BCJHS has won two national titles and was runner-up last year.
“When you go to this national competition I don’t want you to think about that (winning) because you’ve already won,” Garman told the group. “I hope we get that little cherry on top, the extra bonus for all of your hard work, which is the trophy, but you have to keep in mind it’s really about this journey you’re on.”
“The lessons you have learned about dedication and teamwork and responsibility — not just to yourself, but to other people — (and) the importance of representing your school and your community, those are things that are lifelong, really important lessons that will serve you well in the rest of your life.”
Like students from years past, this year’s We the People team spent long hours before and after school, some Saturdays and the majority of their evenings preparing to win.“There were people who never took their nose out of a book for months,” Potts said.And they didn’t do it alone.
Shaffer, Garman, social studies teacher Emily Pettijohn, English teacher Sarah Cochran, engineering teaching Dan Lewellen and We the People alumni attended some of their Saturday practices.
“I probably made my parents’ ears fall off with saying my speeches so much over and over and over,” Chloe Lee said.
Lee is in Unit 5, which focuses on the question, “How does the Constitution protect our basic rights?”
The night before state, Goodwin had a sleepover with her unit mates so they could study. She is in Unit 1, which focuses on the basic ideas the Founders had about government.
“We went to bed at an earlier time so that we would be able to get up and then study more in the morning,” she said. “During the whole bus ride we were doing follow-up questions and speeches.”
Riley Arnholt is in Unit 3, which focuses on the Philadelphia Convention. He is feeling the pressure to win a national title.
“Before regionals, there was a boulder on my shoulder. Then afterwards, I said the boulder had been lifted, but now there’s a mountain. After state, the mountain is gone, but now there’s a continent,” he said.
Drew has learned that the judges want to have a conversation with the students about what they know, and he is up to the challenge.
Drew’s Unit 4 focuses on how the Constitution was used to establish our government.
“I feel like there is pressure with nationals, but I figured out in the competition that I love going up there and showing them what I know, so it’s kind of more like a game for me instead of like a competition,” he said. “It’s more fun than nerve-wracking.”
When asked if they would still decide to take the We the People class knowing, now, how much work it requires, the unanimous answer among Arnholot, Drew, Goodwin and Lee was yes — as long as Potts is their teacher.“I’ve never learned so much in a class before. I feel like Mr. Potts has a way of teaching us,” Drew said.His older sister was on one of the teams that won a national championship.
“I know when I get home and my mom says, ‘What did you learn today?’ it’s always something from We the People, and it’s always something she didn’t know, which is great.”
“I would definitely do it if I had Mr. Potts as the teacher, because he pushes us so far, and it’s so rewarding to be able to get the trophy and get the win. It’s just not a feeling you don’t ever get any other place,” Arnholt said.
Lee’s sister was on the We the People team two years ago. She said she wanted to take the class because of Potts.
“He teaches us how to be responsible and makes us better kids. We are more professional, in a way, and it helps us start thinking about government, and helps us think about what we’re going to do when we get older and how to help our community,” she said.
During Christmas break, the students and Potts will get some time to enjoy their win before they start preparing new speeches and raising money for nationals.
“The feeling of winning was exceptional,” Goodwin said. “You can’t remake that feeling.”
Unit 1: What were the Founders’ basic ideas about government?
Cassidy Davis, Katie Goodwin, Angel Meece, Myka Snyder
Unit 2: What shaped the Founders’ thinking about government?
Kara Adams, Delaney Hobbs, Chloee Robison
Unit 3: What happened at the Philadelphia Convention?
Riley Arnholt, Emma Beck, Tanner Bowman, Sara Fishel
Unit 4: How was the Constitution used to establish our government?
Olivia Baughman, Claire Dannelley, Joey Drew
Unit 5: How does the Constitution protect our basic rights?
Haley Davidson, Chloe Lee, Isabel Rygiel, Allison Stogsdill
Unit 6: What are the responsibilities of citizens?
Whitney Clark, Taylor Poling, Emma Ripberger