TRUMBULL, Conn. — Adviser Katie Boland believes three things vaulted her We the People team to the state championship this year, the fifth consecutive year Trumbull High School will head to the national championships.
“They have to have passion and drive, but the third thing is teamwork, and they really have that this year,” she said.
In fact, the Trumbull squad has won for 21 of the 29 years the competition, which promotes civic competence and responsibility in high school seniors, has existed in the state. This year, they bested strong teams from Greenwich High, Staples High in Westport, St. Joseph’s High in Trumbull, Torrington High, Immaculate High in Danbury and South Windsor High.
Trumbull takes the competition seriously. Interested juniors have to write an essay and have an interview to join the 24-member team. They read and complete assignments over the summer and take a yearlong AP course related to the competition, which also gives them UConn course credit.
Boland conducts the class like a college seminar, with creative assignments, such as writing a eulogy for a founding father or creating press briefings on constitutional topics.
The students get plenty of practice at events such as Evening with the Experts, at which they present their memorized, four-minute speeches and take questions from the floor, or in online and in-person coaching from attorneys from New York City-based Schulte Roth & Zabel.
Students give the entire experience high marks. Maddy Weinstein wanted to go into engineering, but she’s now looking to study political science in college and is considering law school.
She said the topics of the course — from civil rights to gun control to immigration — resonate with her.
“We can all vote next year and these are things that will impact us,” she said.
Aravind Sureshbabu said his involvement has made him a stronger sparing partner to his dad as they watch the presidential debates.
“Before I would watch, but I didn’t have much to say,” he said. “Now I can go in depth.”
The late Rita Altieri started the We the People program at Trumbull High, said Boland, who has lead the team for five years, taking them to eighth in the nation two year ago.
The national finals will be held April 22 to 25 at the University of Maryland College Park. Matthew Buckwald can hardly wait.
“If I could just take this class all day,” he said, “I would.”