Maricopa High School’s We the People team is fighting for a return trip to state competition in just the second year of participation in the program.
The junior- and senior-filled Constitution class participated in their district competition in Tucson Dec. 8, challenging teams from Tucson’s Desert View High School and Rio Rico High School. After the day-long competition – which tested the students knowledge of the U.S. Constitution, the courts, the Bill of Rights and the branches of government – came to a close, the Rams were in second place, 30 points behind winner Rio Rico.
However, the Rams may find themselves once again competing at the state competition Jan. 11 at Chandler-Gilbert Community College as no team from Arizona Legislative District 8 competed and district coordinator Karin Termini said she would fight to have the second place Rams take that spot.
Termini said she failed to understand why Desert View has been the only Tucson area school to compete in a competition typically dominated each year by Mesa and Chandler schools.
“I’m responsible for giving away 25 sets of textbooks in my district and I can’t get teachers to take them even though they are free,” she said. “I don’t know why that is.”
For instructor Bernadette Russioniello, who got the Rams involved with the competition last year, just keeping the program going for a second year and getting the students excited enough to take the initiative to study outside class on their own was progress.
“We’ve been running mock hearings, having team members from last year return to help the kids,” she said.
One student, senior Elijah Armstead, took it a step further, joining Russioniello’s class as a student coach to help prepare the six different units for the speeches they would give and questions from the judges they would face.
“We are so much more organized this year,” he said. “Last year we really didn’t know what to expect.”
Armstead, who was part of the Ram squad that won a unit award last year at the state competition, said what he learned in the class inspired him to do more.
“I really like this government competition,” Armstead said. “I don’t think the students realize government can do so much for them. I know for me, it has changed me since last year and made me more politically active.”
The team will find out in the coming days whether it has advanced to the state competition, which has been won each year since 2002 by Mesa’s Dobson High School. The state winner advances on to the national competition in Washington D.C. during the spring.