TRUMBULL, Conn. — Trumbull High School's We the People team is headed to the national championships again after successfully capturing the state title for the sixth year in a row.
The 24 seniors who competed Dec. 9 have spent the year preparing for the hotly contested event, which involves making polished presentations and answering on-the-fly questions about complex constitutional topics.
“Every individual in that room had educated opinions with facts and a plethora of support to back it up, and even more so, they had passion in every word they spoke,” said team member Keerthi Yalamanchili. “I think that's what makes our Trumbull team so great. We all love what we are doing in this class, and all the work we put in was about more than just winning a competition: it was about becoming more educated and understanding citizens, understanding the world around us, and making great friends in the process.”
The team consists of members of adviser Katie Boland’s AP/ECE Government class. The students began their preparations at the start of the school year and are becoming experts at testifying on constitutional issues in a simulated congressional hearing.
Now in its 30th year, the competition sponsored by the Center for Civic Education and Civics First involves teams from across the state who converged on Central Connecticut State University for the event. Students were judged not only on the content of their opening statement, but also on 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 of Trumbull, Greenwich High School, Immaculate High School of Danbury, South Windsor High School and Staples High School of Westport.
Staples placed second and Greenwich was third.
Besides doing research, the Trumbull squad had the opportunity to practice in competition-like settings. Trumbull Academic Challenge for Excellence Foundation led by liaison Kate Donahue of Trumbull organized multiple practices sessions.
The team also received help from a former We the People state champion. Andrew Gladstein (Trumbull Class of 2002) invited the team to his law firm in New York City for a special practice session.
The team now advances to the national finals to be held in Washington, D.C., from April 21 to April 24 to compete against teams from all over the country. Boland’s 2016 team came in eighth in the nation, and they hope to do even better this year.
This year’s team members are Yalamanchili, Connor Bailo, Spencer Biebel, Kate Burns, Cristina Catana, Abigail Conroy, Ezgi Erken, Victoria Estacio, Emily Fox, Jacob Fried, Jennifer Hance, Benjamin Johnson, Colby Laracuente, Marielle Leonard, David Marchenko, Nicholas Marchenko, Dylan McCaffery, Giridhar Murali, Emma Roca, Lucas Schulz, Rebecca Socha, Evelyn Stelman, Anush Sureshbabu and Ajshe Zulfi.
Though being on the team is a serious commitment, members said the expertise and camaraderie they gain is invaluable.
“From the outside looking in it may appear daunting to pour hours upon hours of work into a 10-minute presentation,” said Bailo, “but when you are enthusiastic about carrying on Trumbull's great tradition and have a family of fellow teammates supporting you it's a very rewarding experience.”