WEPO – more like sweepo

The CFHS We the People team, WEPO, swept the national qualifying tournament this week.

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WEPO – more like sweepo

State WEPO contest awards displayed after the recent contest

State WEPO contest awards displayed after the recent contest

Zoe Jesh

State WEPO contest awards displayed after the recent contest

Zoe Jesh

Zoe Jesh

State WEPO contest awards displayed after the recent contest

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On Wednesday, December 11, the AP Government students competed at the state We the People competition, once again booking their tickets to the national competition held in Washington D.C in April, continuing the school’s dynasty of domination that has spanned a period of over two decades.

In teams of three, students gave prepared four minutes speeches pertaining to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, American representative democracy, the Bill of Rights, and etc. to a panel of judges that included experienced social studies teachers, retired court justices and government officials. After reciting their speeches, the teams participated in six minute sessions of an unprepared questioning with the panel of judges in which they had to synthesize coherent, evidence based answers without the use of notes. In all, the team performed in each of the six units of the We the People Curriculum. After competing the students broke for a well deserved lunch and then trekked over to the Judicial Center for the awards ceremony using the underground tunnels of the capitol grounds complex, where they were ultimately named state champions.

Advisor Mrs. Heather Loeschke passionately commended her student teacher, Mr. Nick McGrath, for his contribution to the program in her final year leading the program. “We the People takes a lot of preparation to get students ready. When you throw fundraising on top of that, it is too much for one person to handle. I have appreciated Mr. McGrath’s expertise, knowledge, and passion for history and government. He’s been a tremendous asset,” she said admiringly. After the semester, McGrath will move on from his student teaching role, but there will be a consolation for the saddened students whom he has struck special bonds with. He has made plans to return in April to tag along on the trip to D.C.

McGrath was not short on enthusiasm when asked about his first and last experience with We the People. “I had a blast. I just never thought it was possible to do something like this with high school students. When Mrs. Loeschke told me that this is what we do with high-schoolers, I thought ‘you’re kidding,’” he asserted. The future educator expressed his genuine presumption that an activity like We the People would be something that he would’ve gotten to do if majoring in pre-law, not while student teaching in a small town. He went on: “To watch students grapple with big questions and get rung through the ringer in the hot seat (the Q & A portion of the competition) and be able to pull it all together is really rewarding. That’s what education is all about – watching students succeed at what they do.”

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The CF WEPO advisors and one of the units pose for a picture at the capitol

 

The final appearance of Cannon Falls students at the state competition saw the team not only triumph, but do so with flying colors. Impressively, the students took home all six unit awards for the very first time. Loeschke stressed that although her AP Government students only had to contend for the nationals birth with two other teams, walking away with a sweep was no small feat. 

When the national competition wraps up this year, Cannon Falls High School will be saying a final goodbye to the We the People program because of the extreme difficulty in raising sufficient funds to make the trip to the nation’s capital year after year. Sadly, across the nation, the program has been on the downturn in recent years – ironically because of the federal government, which cut funding several years ago. Because the financial backing is not there, the activity was bound to falter and experience a drop in participation. The glory days of this valuable civic education program appear numbered and it will presumably come to a complete end in the relatively near future, but Loeschke, who has been the We the People advisor since 2006, along with her partner of the last three years, Mr. Steven Strauss, will be hoping to make one final statement in Washington with this year’s team after an illustrious, incomparable career in the competition in the state of Minnesota.