Williston Takes Second in “We The People”


Credit: Anne-Valerie Clitus

With today’s media and political climate, it has become increasingly important for teenagers to learn about the U.S. government, regardless of their political background and views.

On Saturday, January 25, 31 AP US Government students left campus at 6:30 a.m. and traveled to Boston to compete in the “We the People” state finals.

“We the People” is a civic education program founded by the Center for Civic Education and aims to teach high school students about the founding ideas of the U.S. government and how they apply today. The program includes both state and national finals, in which students are assigned a topic to research and present to a panel of judges in a four minute written presentation and six minutes of follow-up questions.

The Massachusetts state finals are held at the Edward M. Kennedy institute in Boston and this year, there were six schools represented: Norwood High School, Academy of the Pacific Rim, Salem High School, Auburn High School, Easthampton High School, and Williston.

Nathan Shatz ’21, really enjoyed that the experience allowed him to apply what he learned in class to real-world problems.

“I think it was a really good experience because we were able to combine our new knowledge of government and the Constitution and stuff that was developed in our history and current events that we have to face in our future,” he stated.

Nathan also found that the group aspect of the program provided important life skills.

“I thought that along with the skills we acquired we were able to develop connections with our classmates and skills that will allow us to collaborate more effectively,” he said.

Junior Ty Johnson thought the competition helped his self-confidence.

“I was really able to show myself and prove to myself that I have knowledge,” he claimed.

While many students found both the preparation for and reflection after the competition very enriching, Ruby McElhone Yates found the competition itself slightly terrifying.

“The morning was super stressful; it was really nerve-wracking. The judges walked in, and we went last, so there was a lot of anticipation,” she commented.

After a long day of nerves and civic discussions, the Williston team came in second, behind Easthampton High School. This was an impressive feat as most of the attending schools apply the “We the People” curriculum as a separate class, meaning they begin preparations in early September. Williston students were first assigned their groups before winter break, leaving only about two months to prepare.

Peter Gunn, teacher of AP U.S. Government, has brought a team to the competition since 1998. Mr. Gunn finds that the competition is a valuable chance for students to delve deeper into their understanding of the government.

“It’s an opportunity to explore fundamental questions about human nature and the nature of government,” Gunn said.

His favorite part about the competition is watching students be treated as adults in an academic setting.

“My favorite aspect of the competition is seeing students engaged in a conversation with adults who take seriously as intellectual beings and fellow citizens.”