“If you’re going to say it, you better know it,” Michael Potts cautioned his class.
Habeas corpus, impeachment, the march on Birmingham, pork-barrel spending — if a We the People team member mentions any term or event in their speech, they must know how to define and defend it before a judge.
“If you blank, game over,” Potts said.
In a little over a week, 20 eighth-graders will compete in the We the People National Invitational at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. They leave April 29 and will return May 3.
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The school has won two national titles and finished runner-up last year, but this is the first time these particular teenagers have competed on the national stage.
Each student rehearses his or her speech at least five times day.
They have spent an average of 10½ hours each week studying more than 214 terms and multiple court cases.
At nationals, they will be quizzed by a panel of judges who play the role of a congressional committee. The students will start by making a four-minute opening statement, then face six minutes of questioning by the judges.
Even Potts’ life is run by We the People.
“I am always thinking about it. When I am changing diapers, it’s true. When I am sitting there eating dinner with my family, I think about it,” he said.
“I understand the sacrifice and commitments that you all are making … I get that, and I really appreciate it. I really, really do.”
Win or place, it’s all been worth it. When asked if We the People has taught them more than just about government, every hand went up in the air.
They said their writing, communication and studying skills have improved since becoming “Weeples.”
Other lessons: How to be confident, to see the other sides of arguments, to form their own opinions, to manage their time and to analyze information.
They shake hands, respect the opinions of others and know the importance of eye contact when speaking.
The class has taught them to be a class act, they said.
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
3 students are considering careers in politics or government.
4 students are siblings of former We the People team members.
5 is the average number of times each student rehearses their speech daily.
10.5 hours each week are dedicated, on average, to studying We the People material, including after-school study sessions.
13 total sleepovers were hosted by the all-female units to study.
14 We the People students are thinking about working in law.
31 notebooks have been used by 13 students.
56 hours have been spent on Saturday practices.
214 terms have been memorized.
400 flashcards are used each student to study terms and multiple other court cases, on average.
$40,000+ was raised with the help of individuals, government and community groups, the Brown County Community Foundation, SCI-REMC and local restaurants which donated a percentage of customers’ bills. The team’s goal was $37,500. Excess funds will roll over as “seed money” for next year’s team.
Want to see these kids can do? A mock hearing will be conducted at 6 p.m. Friday, April 22 at the Brown County High School auditorium. All are welcome.