HSE & FHS Prepare For Nationals After Taking Top Honors at Statewide Competition

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When it comes to the issues that matter to all Americans, young people are more engaged than ever, especially at area high schools who recently took top honors at the We the People State Championship competition.

Janet Chandler, We the People sponsor at Hamilton Southeastern High School, says the fact that her students are the current champions while neighboring Fishers placed as the First Runner-Up showcases the caliber of program both schools have cultivated.

“It speaks well for our district that students want to promote civil discourse about politics today,” she says.

We the People is a national program that was launched in 1987 to commemorate the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. It is designed to promote civic competence and responsibility among the nation’s elementary and secondary students through interactive strategies, relevant content and simulated congressional hearings that allow participants to argue the finer points of the country’s original bylaws in a competitive environment. By competition rule, it is to be a co-curricular class and both schools have offered the program to students since 2002.

Elizabeth Paternoster, We the People coach at Fishers High School says she has 29 students on her team and they have become very engaged in the content that is presented in class. In addition, community experts in the various topics volunteer their time to serve as advisors to the team and prepare them for the competition ahead.

“Practice sessions start in October and Fishers has won the state finals in three of the past six years,” Paternoster says. “The high school finals are extremely competitive in Indiana, and Janet and I sit down a few years ago with the ultimate goal of having both schools in the top spots.”

The two began hosting the We the People Mudsock competition in order to give both teams more experience before the statewide competition and when their dream came true this year, she says it felt great.

“They did a great job testifying on issues such as immigration reform, increasing power of the executive branch, division in Congress and society today, free speech, due process and much more,” Paternoster says.

Chandler says the competition is not for the faint of heart. “Students are expected to articulate multiple sides of complicated issues, present prepared testimony and respond to questions from a panel of judges,” she says.

And while her 21 seniors are gearing up for the national competition in April, if Indiana receives a wild card, then the Fishers team will be invited to compete as well.

“Last year, Fishers finished first while HSE earned third place honors so we are very excited to be competing in the Nationals,” she adds.

Charles R. Dunlap, executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation says the We the People education model has been shown to increase civic participation for students as they become adults and feels that We the People students are an inspiration to all.

“These students instill hope and confidence in our next generation of leaders,” he says.

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