The Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology took first place, and Carolina Forest High School took second at the 33rd annual We the People state competition in December.

The nationals will pit the two teams against about 1,200 other students from 56 communities from April 24-27 in Washington, D.C.

Normally, teams only qualify to compete in the nationals by placing first in the state. CFHS was chosen by the wild card option.

The goal of We the People, according to its website, www.civiced.org, is “to provide students with the knowledge, skills and dispositions that are required for competent and responsible participation in the American political system.”

In the nationals, they’ll be judged on their knowledge of any of six units.

Those units are:

What are the philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system?

How did the framers create the Constitution?

How has the Constitution been changed to further the ideals contained in the Declaration of Independence?

How have the values and principles embodied in the Constitution shaped American institutions and practices?

What rights does the Bill of Rights protect?

And, What challenges might face American constitutional democracy in the 21st Century?

While the students will spend months studying those units, after the initial Q&A session, judges will ask follow-up questions the students will not have been able to prepare for.

The AAST is holding Community Night Out at the Liberty Tap Room, 7651 N. Kings Highway Feb. 28 from 4-10 p.m. when 20% of the restaurant’s proceeds will be donated to the team.

Because AAST came in first in the state, the S.C. Bar Association is donating $11,000 to the cost of taking the 15 students to Washington.

The other $11,800 still needed will be raised by cold-calling businesses to ask for support.

Donations, made payable to AAST, can be mailed to AAST 895 International Drive MB SC 29579 Attn: Robert DeCerbo.

CFHS’s total cost for its team of 24 will be about $33,000 and after the $21,000 that’s been promised, a balance of about $12,000 is needed.

That, said CFHS social studies teacher and We the People coach J.J. Iagulli, will pay for transportation, hotels, food, and educational experiences.

CFHS is holding a $10 pasta dinner fundraiser Friday, Jan. 31 from 4-7 p.m. at Murphy’s Law.

And, March 7 from 7-11 a.m., the school will hold a yard sale at Sandhills Bank, 273 Carolina Forest Blvd. with all proceeds going to the team.

Donations can also be mailed to CFHS, 700 Gardner Lacy Road MB SC 29579 Attn: J.J. Iagulli.

Students will also be responsible for making up the difference if fundraising doesn’t pay all expenses.

Iagulli described the We the People competition as “just like a Congressional hearing when someone is called before Congress.”

Robert DeCerbo, AAST U.S. History/Law teacher and We the People coach said, “The easy answer to what We the People is would be to say it gives a better understanding of government law and what our society is going through right now.”

But, he added, “The networking and the family it builds within the team…there’s nothing like spending the year together bonding.”

CFHS senior Hannah Parsons, planning a future in the medical field, said her experience in the state competition has already helped her even though she’s pursuing a non-political career.

It has, she said, given her confidence expressing her viewpoints and helped her realize she needs proof and evidence when presenting those opinions.

Among the educational experiences planned for the students is a tour of the Capital Building, a meeting with Congressman Tom Rice, a tour of the Pentagon and a trip to the Smithsonian.

The 17-year-old Parsons said the Pentagon tour is high on her list of what she’s looking forward to.

“I have an uncle who actually works there, so it will be very cool to actually experience that.”

AAST student Bianca Gawencki, planning to go into the music industry, said that while a civic education isn’t directly related to her career goals, “learning about the government can help with almost anything in the future.”

AAST senior Dillon Prince, who’s especially excited about a visit to the International Spy Museum in D.C., agreed.

“Some of our teammates were leaning far right conservatives and others were leaning far left liberals, and this experience has allowed me to take different perspectives on different issues,” he said.

DeCerbo said being on the We the People team is a one-time experience, not a situation where the kids can get better from year to year.

“They have to get better from August to December when they prepare for the state competition, and then from January to April for the national competition.

“It’s a really quick learning experience.”

Iagulli agreed.

“I’m most proud of these kids,” he said. “Other teachers and I have said we couldn’t have done this when we were in high school.”


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