On December 3, 2022, Arvin High School’s We The People team won their congressional district competition for the 19th year in a row.
We The People is both a government class and a nationwide program where high schoolers learn in depth about different facets of American government. They practice becoming experts in their chosen constitutional topic and perform mock congressional hearings. Competitions are at a district or regional level, state level, and national level.
The program was started in 1987 by the Center for Civic Education to commemorate the 200-year anniversary of the constitution’s creation in 1787. The program’s main goal is to promote civic responsibility in the nation’s youth.
Arvin High School is a part of the Kern High School District (KHSD), which is one of the more competitive regions when it comes to this competition. As such the team at Arvin High, consisting of 19 seniors, dedicated hours both inside and outside of the classroom to prepare for competition.
“It’s important because it really does foster a generation of students, and eventually adults, that we hope and we expect to be not only participatory in the process of our government and our politics but also have leading opinions and ideas that we can look at as something that is guided by fact, by constitutional understanding, and by a broader idea of what is really good for the people in the country or even at a local level in our community,” said Nick Hernandez, government teacher and coach of the team at Arvin High.
Hernandez is an alumni of Arvin High and also participated in the program as a student back in 2013, with his team coached by Robert Ruckman making it all the way to the national competition.
“The depth that goes into We The People and the amount of commitment from those students makes it so much more enriching of a program because the state requires us to teach about civics and government, and that’s useful in and of itself, but We The People goes a step further to say not only should you know this, but it equips you in a way that you are able to use it to advocate for yourself or advocate for your community,” continued Hernandez.
Not only does the program teach the students about the government, but it also helps foster their interest in it. This was noted by multiple students taking part in the program.
“We The People made me a lot more interested in government. Last year when we were taking A.P. US History, I literally failed both semesters and I had to retake it during the summer so I think this really made me like it more, mostly because when it comes to government, I used to think of it as something that only applies to the past but like with We The People now I can apply it to the present,” team-member Teresa Miranda shared.
We The People team president Sofia Arias added that: “At first I liked the program but I didn’t have a big placement of knowledge but now I do so I feel like it’s easy to me and I feel like I’m more knowledgeable about things like government compared to before. I feel like I can also take more part in political and government stuff in the future.”
Knowledge of American politics and government wasn’t the only thing that students got out of the program, however.
“With public speaking, I have a lot of social anxiety so having to speak in front of people through this program actually helps a little bit more getting over that fear. Also after the competitions, I just felt a lot more confident in myself and what I say and now I try not to second guess myself as much,” Miranda revealed.
Hernandez continued by explaining how essential attending practices is for the program, noting the importance of building interactions and relationships amongst the team. He added that the work required for this program can require hours to be put in after school, on Saturdays, and even over holidays.
“Those kinds of opportunities bring out real personalities that people have and by having as many opportunities to see that, I’m hoping that people have a greater relationship coming out of it,” said Hernandez.
With the amount of time students spent working hard together towards a common goal, the team became almost like a family.
“I joined for the jacket. But I probably stayed because I had a friend here and made new friends. I’m glad. My favorite thing is probably talking to people, like honestly before this I had no social life, now I kind of have a social life so I got a social life out of this,” said Alicia Guerrero, member of the Arvin High team, who as per tradition was awarded a jacket by the school in Arvin’s school colors: red and white.
“I think that because we all rely on one another to answer questions and get more information about a topic it kind of formed a sort of bond because we all need help from each person. I am proud of winning because you know it’s a big title and to like be part of that is also a really big opportunity and it adds to the list of years that we’ve won. It makes me feel part of something bigger,” stated Arias.
Though the semester of government required for graduation may now be over, the members of Arvin High’s We The People team continue to prepare for the California state competition in February.