The competitive civics teams from Foothill and Amador Valley high schools each placed among the top four teams in the country at the national We the People competition in Washington D.C. over the weekend.
The two We the People teams went head-to-head throughout the school year, and both advanced to nationals after Amador won the state contest while second-place Foothill was chosen as a wild-card selection to also compete in D.C., marking the first time both Pleasanton schools qualified for nationals in the same year.
At the national level competition over the weekend, Foothill took second place and Amador fourth, out of a pool of 52 teams and over 1,100 high school students. Grant High School from Portland, Ore., won this year's tournament.
"Our students were amazing during their hearings and their hard work was evidenced in how they spoke to complex issues in front of the panels of legal scholars, judges and attorneys," PUSD Superintendent David Haglund said in a statement.
Haglund, who attended the finals in D.C. along with the teams, added, "Thank you to our dedicated teachers, Jeremy Detamore and Stacey Sklar, who dedicated countless hours as coaches to the teams, and to the families and community who supported these students on their journey."
This was Amador's 16th time at nationals, and Foothill's second. Last year, Amador placed fifth in D.C.
"This year in particular the competition was very difficult, since several of the most competitive states sent wild-card teams in addition to the winners of their state competitions," said Sklar, who has been teaching We the People for four years at Amador. "The fact that both Amador and Foothill placed so well really says something about the quality of civics education in Pleasanton."
"It is a true honor to have worked with this remarkable group of students," added Detamore, who has been teaching We the People for 10 years. "While I am overjoyed about our success, I’m sad that it means that our time working together is coming to an end."
We the People is an intensive, year-long class and program, open only to seniors. Students on the team are divided into six distinct units to focus on different constitutional topics, from the philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system to the rights protected under the Bill of Rights. Once placed, the four or so students on a particular unit delve into the topic.
At a competition, students participate in a "simulated congressional hearing," where students apply their respective areas of expertise to historical and contemporary issues. Teams are judged on their demonstrated understanding of government and the Constitution, and their ability to back up arguments with logic, evidence and constitutional citations, according to Detamore.
Tryouts for the teams are held at both campuses the prior year -- the 2018-19 teams are already selected.
"I can assure you that both schools intend to continue to give other top teams a run for their money in future years!" Sklar said.
Students on Foothill's team included: Max Moeller, Charlie Das, Jessica Maloney, Malini Manimaran, Julia Tolari, Nathan Daniel, William Rose, Yuna Jeong, Omar Qureshi, Arman Abrishamchian, Rithu Gurazada, Sanjana Singh, Eleanor Savas, Deema Afana, Emily McElroy, Lauren Dennen, Nina Paranjpe, Ashley Johnson, Avni Patel, Maggie Wade, Anirudh Rengarajan, Will Carlson, Leland Zhang, Rachel Sanchez, Jared Tay, Lili Cook, Mariah Nibert and Cassidy Syao.
And on Amador's: Varun Iyer, Carter Person, Nithya Swaminathan, Jonathan Yang, Andreas Maass, Kevin Zhu, Tania Gupta, Cathrine Lilja, Elise Allari, David Crofton, Mayank Sharma, Surya Venugopal, Kyle McGarrity, Amber Xie, Sachi Kheny, Justin Zhao, Tiffany Jing, Eknoor Kaur, Dorsa Sahafzadeh, Ziaan Rajabali, Calla Li and Mariana Zuniga.