WASHINGTON D.C. – The Grant Constitution Team placed second in the “We the People” national competition on Monday. The first place prize went to Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies in Virginia.
This is the third year in a row that Grant’s Constitution Team has competed on the national stage. An Oregon team, either Grant or Lincoln, has taken first place each of the last five years. While they didn’t take first, the Grant Generals continued Oregon’s dominant streak in the constitution team national arena this year.
Tristan Rocha, a student who competed for unit 3, recognizes this feat. “Going into it, I didn’t want to be the team that stopped the Portland streak,” he says. “But looking at it objectively, it is pretty amazing that we managed to get second place, I’m very proud of it.”
Rocha is right. Hundreds of teams throughout the country compete in their states to make it to nationals, but only one team from each state can go. Once a team gets to D.C., the stakes are raised. The event takes place over three days; the first two days decide the top ten teams for the third day. While competing, three judges – ranging from law professors to retired state Supreme Court justices – ask a series of questions about various topics in the constitution.
The first question is chosen from a group of three that the team has months to prepare for, but the six minutes of follow-up questions require quick thinking and in-depth knowledge from the students. The questions can range from interpretations of documents written by the Founding Fathers’ to the concept of fake news in America. The students must be ready for anything.
Jim Westwood, who has been a unit coach for Grant’s constitution team since 2001, believes the team was as prepared as it could be.
“This was as good a performance over the three days as any team we’ve ever had, and some of those teams have won first place… but they learned it and showed they know it, and it was as valuable as it could have been,” he says. In the end, Westwood says winning is not as important as the experience. “Winning is not really what it’s about, doing the best they can is what counts, and they did that.”
While many of the students are disappointed with the outcome, most realize that what they gained from participating on the team is much more than just a trophy.
“It was kind of more the process for me,” says Maggie Miller, a student on Unit 4 of the constitution team. “Getting to know the people on the team and learning how to work with each other, it can come together in a really special way. I think that’s the best part of con team.”