Amador's Comp Civics team needs our help | February 22, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Column - February 22, 2013

Amador's Comp Civics team needs our help

by Jeb Bing

Congratulations have been pouring in to the Amador Valley High School's Competition Civics "We the People" team that just won the state championship. But more than praise is needed. The team and its 25 students and coaches need financial support to make the trip to Washington, D.C., in late April for the national finals. The team, coached by social studies and civics teachers Brian Ladd and Mairi Wohlgemuth on the Amador faculty, topped 10 other California high school We the People teams Feb. 9 in Bakersfield to earn the privilege of representing California in the nationals.

In Washington, the Amador students will be tested on their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights by a panel of judges well versed in the subject. The top teams from other states will vie for the top honor during presentations on April 27-29 with the winning team to be announced at a banquet on the final night. The competition will be conducted on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax County, Va., and in hearing rooms on Capitol Hill.

Members of the We the People team, their coaches, school leaders and community and parent supporters are now launching a fundraising campaign for the $50,000 it will cost to go to Washington. The program is totally self-funded and doesn't receive any money from Amador Valley High or the school district. In fact, the We the People portion of competition civics is only taught during the seniors' first semester, unlike in some other states where it's a year-long program.

That means that the teachers and students must meet after school, evenings and on weekends to study together, test each other, practice and rehearse how they will respond to sets of questions provided by the national We the People organization. Because the course is taught in the first semester only, the team can't even start to raise funds for a Washington trip because the state finals, where the state winner is announced, doesn't occur until February. That makes it even tougher on the teacher-coaches and the students who now must scramble to raise the funds needed for the trip while also continuing to refine their skills on the Constitution.

Ladd and Wohlgemuth will get help in preparing for the finals from Jeremy Detamore, who coached the team from Foothill, where he is a world history and economics teacher, and Pleasanton City Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio, who coached the team from Irvington High, where she teaches U.S. government and honors economics. In fact, Cook-Kallio said at Tuesday night's City Council meeting that her team would help raise funds for Amador and she has offered her help in the Amador team's practice sessions. Also at the council meeting, Councilman Jerry Pentin said his Pleasanton North Rotary Club would donate $500 toward the Washington trip and a bicycle riding group he's on will add another $500. Timing is important because Ladd said the group will have to have the funds on hand in early April to book reservations for the trip.

I'll admit to being a big booster of the Amador We the People team. My grandson Jordan Nally is on this year's state championship team and my son Chris Bing was on the 1995 team that won the national competition that year in Washington. I also know firsthand about the late night hours these students put in week after week leading up to the competition, reviewing papers, books and data about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the authors of those documents.

Hundreds of students from high schools across the country participate in We the People competitions at the local and then state levels, demonstrating their understanding of the Constitution before a simulated congressional committee consisting of constitutional scholars, lawyers, civic educators and government leaders who judge their classes' performances. The judges test the students' comprehension of the material prepared by the national organization. Officially called "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution," the program has reached more than 30 million students and 90,000 teachers since its inception in 1987. Two years ago, the Congress declined to fund the Education for Democracy Act, leaving individual states and school districts to continue the program on their own. They made this decision after independent research showed that high school students who participated in the We the People program scored 30% higher than matched comparison government classes on a comprehensive test that measured understanding of core values and principles of democracy.

You can help the Amador We the People team by sending a tax deductible donation to Amador Valley Comp Civics, 1155 Santa Rita Road, Pleasanton 94566.


Posted by Cheryl Cook-Kallio, a resident of Jensen Tract
on Feb 22, 2013 at 11:21 am

The benefits if this program far outweighs the joy of competition and the joy at competing at this level is huge! Congratulations to the Amador team for again winning the right to represent ALL of California at the National finals in Washington DC.

I have been involved at all levels for 20 years or more. I used to help with the Amador team where two of my children participated and I have had the pleasure of coaching the Irvington team for the last 12 years. Brian Ladd and I have talked often of how proud we are of the the adults these young people become.

The funding for this program has been profoundly cut and all of the coaches, judges and event planners state wide are doing much of the extra stuff on a volunteer basis. This is way too much work if the only benefit was the competitive factor. All of these young people who participate in this program go on to be valuable contributing members of our participatory democracy. Whatever you can contribute helps!

A little background for those of you who have never had the pleasure of seeing these young people:

The competition focuses on the United States Constitution and its application. Students not only have to know the Constitution but be able to discuss its relevance, citing courts cases and historical fact to support their assertions. The team is then grilled by a panel of judges, all of who have some expertise in the Constitution and its connection to current issues. Students are challenged to critically think while under a lot of pressure, not to mention the time constraint. The follow up questions are impromptu and ask students to delve into areas not explored by undergraduates in college let alone high school seniors.

All of the California teams would love to have this experience. It is life changing. It is an honor and a privilege to have a team from Pleasanton representing California. Please consider making a donation at whatever level you can afford.

Good Luck Amador!

Posted by registered user, Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 22, 2013 at 11:32 am

Donations: "You can help the Amador We the People team by sending a tax deductible donation to Amador Valley Comp Civics, 1155 Santa Rita Road, Pleasanton 94566"

Posted by Parents?, a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Feb 22, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Why can't their parents pay for them to attend?

Posted by A Neighbor, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2013 at 11:17 pm

@ Parents? The basic answer answer to your question is, they are. In addition to what parents are expected to contribute, it will take $35,000. of community support to send 29 to Washington, DC.

Posted by My 2 cents, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2013 at 7:26 am

". In addition to what parents are expected to contribute, it will take $35,000. of community support to send 29 to Washington, DC"

But the parents should be the ones paying for it. Their kids are the ones enjoying the experience, why should the rest of us pay for it? When my kids go to activities like this, we pay for it 100 percent (outside of school activities, that is, but just as costly and rewarding, and we do not ask or expect anyone to help us pay for it).

Parents of students in the Civics team: your kids are enjoying an experience that other students were denied (yes, other students tried to be part of the program but were not selected, that is the way it goes, some get in, some do not), so you need to pay for YOUR kid's expenses!

Besides, we already donate to the PTA, the classroom, PPIe, etc. Pay for your kids' expenses, this is not a community thing, since only some students are allowed to participate, even when many other students are rejected from that class/program. You can't reject students and then expect all the parents to help pay for it!

My neighbor's child did not get selected, and while this child understands that not everyone can get selected, his/her parents should not be asked to pay for the selected students' expenses!

Posted by Pleasanton Positivity, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 23, 2013 at 7:45 am

As a member of the wonderful Pleasanton community, I enjoy supporting school groups whether it is band, orchestra, sports, or academic programs, and have continued to do so even when my children do not participate in those programs. I'm proud of these civics students for representing Pleasanton in such a positive way on a national level. I mailed my check yesterday, and look forward to continuing to support Pleasanton students whenever there is a need.

Posted by Grumpy, a resident of California Reflections
on Feb 23, 2013 at 11:00 am

Will you also pay for my kids soccer fees?

Posted by registered user, Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 23, 2013 at 11:14 am

Even though it is a lot of money, these students are ambassadors for Pleasanton. I think that is reason enough to donate.

A suggestion for the future would be to raise money all year and try at least to have a fund set up for the possibility of making it to D.C. If the team does not make it, it would be a nice start for future teams who may win this honor. Then collecting wouldn't be so daunting and in such a short period of time. Pay it forward.

Posted by It's not negative, a resident of Castlewood
on Feb 23, 2013 at 11:16 am

To question why a program that benefits a tiny proportion of the student population and is populated by students who have to compete to be in the program needs funding from the public to pay for accommodations and airfare. I think it's a reasonable question. The program is voluntary, so parents should in advance anticipate paying for the associated costs of attending the national event.
I know that for the students, parents, and teachers involved its a feather in their cap, but I think asking money from the public to pay for it is not the best idea.

Posted by registered user, Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 23, 2013 at 11:23 am

If you have a child who makes it onto this team, but you do not have the ability to pay for a trip, do you pull your child from the team? I don't think I would want to take away that student's opportunity for inability to pay. Donating is voluntary; no one is being forced to contribute.

Posted by Always asking, a resident of Grey Eagle Estates
on Feb 23, 2013 at 11:39 am

To Kathleen no, we fund raise for those who can't pay but first go to the families and teachers and administrators to see what they can and will pay and then come back and ask for a reasonable amount. Since I have moved to Pleasanton 2 years ago I notice that the schools are always asking for so much. And there is not concern about being financially prudent when asking.
And I did not move here for the schools. My job relocated me. The schools are fine but far from what you all claim they are, they could use some work.

Posted by registered user, Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 23, 2013 at 11:58 am

High schools students have so many competitive events for students, it's impossible for the schools to cover all the expenses. I'm sure that's why parents and others are always donating. But students gain so much from the events, and much of it helps with college, scholarships, and life in general. Hard to put a price tag on the benefits. I certainly wouldn't ask a team to stay at a flea bag motel, but hope they aren't planning to stay at a Ritz and dine at the best restaurants.

I think there are many bright students and dedicated staff members at each of the schools in Pleasanton. I would agree with you there are other areas that need vast improvement.

Posted by I agree, a resident of Avignon
on Feb 23, 2013 at 1:21 pm

This is something the parents should pay for. My student was involved in this "program" and while he benefitted from it I can tell you that it is a stretch to think the rest of the school, or the community, benefits from this. I found the students involved to be very self involved and completely self invested. I will say the same for the adults. They need to pay their own way as many other students in competitive optional school affiliated programs do.

Posted by registered user, Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 23, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Don't band and sports boosters hit up the local community and businesses with a variety of fundraisers (crab feeds, eScrip, etc.)? When we talk about great schools in Pleasanton, don't we count these kind of achievements by any given team and their coaches?

Posted by registered user, Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 23, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Here is Amador Boosters sponsors page (by category): Web Link
Here is Foothill's request/form for helping: Web Link

By all appearances, there is plenty of support needed by teams and provided by the community.

Posted by Helping students, a resident of Birdland
on Feb 23, 2013 at 5:48 pm

If you would like to help, please do. If you do not want to help, do not. Please stop with the typical classless Pleasanton banter. When will people grow up in this community?

Posted by My 2 cents, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2013 at 4:14 pm

The difference, Kathleen, is music programs for instance do not reject qualified students. Any student who plays an instrument and wants to be part of the music program is welcome. Even those who do not play an instrument can participate in choir.

This civics team though, is a class that selects students based on I am not sure which criteria. Many are qualified, yet not all get selected. The students who are rejected could have just as well competed and made it to the national competition. So let their parents pay. It sounds like a very rewarding experience for those students involved, and I am sure their parents will find a way to finance this expense.

Posted by I have to agree, a resident of Grey Eagle Estates
on Feb 24, 2013 at 9:12 pm

I have to agree that this program is very different than most, if not all, the others based on the exclusivity. My neighbors child was rejected and not given a good reason at all. It seems that any student who is interested should be able to participate if tax dollars are going to the program, nevermind donations! I do love to give to the schools, I just choose to give to programs that benefit all. I am having a hard time seeing how this is one of them.

The parents should pay and probably can, in most cases. They should only ask for donations for students who can't afford the trip. 50k to benefit 25 kids is exorbitant.

Posted by Cheryl Cook-Kallio, a resident of Jensen Tract
on Feb 24, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Not everyone is chosen to play varsity football or A jazz band. Not everyone is chosen for the competition civics team.

In my world and I believe Amador's, the team is chosen based on a balance of perspective and ability and the desire to commit to the time and it is time consuming.

They are fundraising because they are state champions, an honor and a privilege. I can understand not wanting to or not being able to contribute but please don't diminish this program, competitive or not. The students study the United States Constitution and its current day application. They learn to critically thing and engage in civil discussions. We complain about Congress and our state legislature not being able to do what these young people are learning to do. Our founders knew how important it was to have an educated participatory Republic. It is now at least as important as it was then. They know and understand government.

This is a class that finished at the semester. The teachers are there after school and on weekends because they believe this is a life changing experience. At this point the hours spent are volunteer, but they have made this commitment to the students.

Yes, the parents will contribute, the students will host fund raisers and every student will attend despite their family's ability to pay. This is no different from buying a raffle ticket, a roll of wrapping paper, Boy Scout popcorn or Girl Scout cookies.

So contribute if you can and whatever level you can comfortably. Every little bit counts. Checks may be sent to Amador Valley Competition Civics Team, 1155 Santa Rita Rd. 94566.

Posted by A Neighbor, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2013 at 11:12 am

Cheryl, Thank you for your support of We The People, both in Pleasanton and in Fremont. I truly believe that this is one of those examples in a community where success of a few lifts all boats. This program makes us all better people and citizens. My daughter was not selected for the team, but we will support them now, and in future years. It's a matter of community pride.

Posted by Helen, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2013 at 4:28 pm

I know several teens on this team. They are smart, hard-working students of good character. They've put a lot of time, effort and energy into this. I am proud of them and the other students who have worked so hard and have earned the privilege of representing the state of CA in the national competition. Just think how big our state is compared to others; this is an amazing success! Airfare to/from and housing in DC is just plain expensive. No one is being forced to donate. I certainly will because this is a special opportunity earned by these exceptional students. Good luck, Amador Comp Civics Team and thank you to the amazing coaches! (BTW, I do not have a student on the team; none of my kids were interested.)

Posted by My 2 cents, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2013 at 11:19 pm

"Not everyone is chosen to play varsity football or A jazz band."

But there is the junior varsity team and the other band. So students who want to be a part can still do so.

But not in the comp civics program. Other students who want to participate are not allowed, they need to just take the class. Why can't everyone compete? Not open for discussion, but don't expect the rest of us to pay for the few who were selected. It is a somewhat subjective selection. This is not rocket science or a hard skill, and any good student can learn the material (and some already know it and yet don't make it). Why not allow many teams to compete? Kind of like the junior varsity team, or the other band. That is the difference.

And learning civics related stuff is something many can do and yet many qualified are rejected. Playing a sport or learning an instrument is a bit more complicated and yet everyone can participate. Go figure!

Posted by My 2 cents, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2013 at 11:22 pm

" This is no different from buying a raffle ticket, a roll of wrapping paper, Boy Scout popcorn or Girl Scout cookies. "

Yes it is. Boy scouts and girl scouts are inclusive, and all who want to be a part of it can find a troop.

Posted by Inclusive?, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2013 at 9:42 am

I would point out that Boy Scouts have been anything but inclusive!

All seniors take government. Other classes have levels and in some cases students are placed into sections "randomly".

Even with JV not everyone gets to play. Ability does come into consideration.

Not everyone gets to take yearbook, journalism or even photo. Those classes fund raise also.

This is a team too. Donations are voluntary. In that way it is exactly like any other fund raiser. If you don't want to participate in the fund raiser then don't. Sounds like sour grapes to me.

Posted by Mike, a resident of Charter Oaks
on Feb 26, 2013 at 4:54 pm

My 2 Cents sounds like someone who did not get picked for lots of things as a kid.

As far as being an exclusive group, the rules of the competition set the number of people that can participate. I suppose we can argue about whether a school should participate in a program that does not include everyone, but the fact of the matter is that every student who tries out knows there are only so many spaces available and that they might not be selected. For the ones that don't make it, I commend them for trying and encourage them to keep challenging themselves to achieve. I had two students go through Amador. One made the team and one did not. The one that did not make knew she was a longshot becasue the skills needed where not necessarily her strength. But she challenged herself anyway. I thought it was a good experience for her.

You clearly have no idea about the amount of work, stress and skill required to participate in this program. The fact of the matter is that these are hard skills to master and just because it is not a physical skill, does not lessen it's degree of difficulty.

These 17 and 18 year olds who make it to nationals stand up in the US Senate hearing chambers and argue points of law within the constitution, to a US Federal Judge, and then relate these points back to the intent of the founders. It is not only a wonderful experience for these kids, the kind of skills they learn are valuable skills they will continue to use the rest of their lives.

As a community we have no problem spending money and putting extra effort into providing extra assistance to those students who struggle, why can't we also support those students that excel, no matter what the skill? Why are always managing to the lowest common denominator instead of highest expectation?

Our check is in the mail.

Posted by Pleasanton Parents, a resident of Highland Oaks
on Feb 26, 2013 at 6:46 pm

After reading the commentary from the people 'not wanting to pay', we decided to make a donation. Investing in our youth, for this type of program is an investment in our Nation's future.

Posted by john, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Count me in too. Sounds like a worthwhile investment to me.

Posted by Me too!, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 27, 2013 at 9:36 am

Many times we don't know where our donations are going! This is an investment in Pleasanton. Count me in too!

Posted by Ptown Parent, a resident of Foothill High School
on Feb 27, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Congratulations to the Amador civics kids on their state championship and national bid. My student is heading to national competition with a high school sports team in a few weeks. National level competition was the goal from the start so the kids and parents have been fundraising for 9 months, all the while the kids have been maintaining grades, practicing their sport and competing and winning at a regional and state level. That's how you build character. Amador's civics team seeks to participate at the state and national level of competition every year. They have had >6 months to plan for it, but it appears from this article that they've waited until the last minute and now expect the community to pony up funds because they did not fundraise to support their goal while they had the chance. And now they're too busy? Perhaps the civics teacher should go talk to Amador's band about how to set goals, plan and fundraise. They mastered it with their food truck events last summer.

Posted by registered user, Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 27, 2013 at 3:31 pm

I don't know why Amador doesn't fundraise and then bank the money if they don't make the Nationals, making it possible for a future team to go. However, only one team from the state makes it to the national competition. I can tell you Amador isn't the only high school to compete at the state level, win, and then have to fundraise for the Nationals.

Posted by reasonable, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 8:50 pm

I know a young man on this team. It is indeed a very difficult and time consuming activity and it requires a great deal of dedication as well as, yes, ability. Reading, critical thinking, writing and debate are all skills that can be practiced but do come more easily to some than others. If you don't get on the team, anyone can take AP Government, which teaches much of the same material, or take Debate, which is open to anyone.

The group of kids doing this are among the highest achievers in the school -- many have their sights set on top colleges all over the country including the Ivy League.

So if you don't want to donate -- don't. The parents will pony up whatever is not donated or raised by the students. But it is not reasonable to expect them to raise $2000 per student in anticipation of 'maybe' going to nationals.

Posted by registered user, Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:28 pm

I agree donating is the right thing to do, particularly under the circumstances (short timeline and amount to be raised). Setting up a perpetual fund is simply planting a seed for future teams.

Posted by think about it, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Amador doesn't know it is going to Nationals until they win at state. People don't donate to a team just in case they get to go! It could have been Foothill or any number of other schools from around the state.

Band can plan ahead. They always have an ongoing need for funds. There has been a cost to this team and paid for by the parents. It does cost to go to the state competition. The state competition always is very competitive and no team should so presumptuous as to think they are automatically going to win.

You can imagine the outcry if a school class/team started hoarding money just in case they won something. If you would be willing to write a check just in case, then I don't see any reason why you wouldn't write one once the team EARNED the right to represent all of California.

Posted by My 2 cents, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2013 at 1:15 pm

"many have their sights set on top colleges all over the country including the Ivy League. "

And some who were rejected were already accepted into Ivy Leagues.

I still think it should be the parents of those selected who should come up with the funds needed by their kids.