Tahoma High School’s We The People class won the Washington State 2019 Civics Championship for the 23rd year out of the 25 years the school has been competing in it.
The competition took place Jan. 12, and now Tahoma will advance to compete at nationals in Washington, D.C. at the end of April.
We The People is an advanced placement government class offered at Tahoma as part of the social studies requirement to graduate, according to Gretchen Wulfing, the educator who teaches the class.
She said it is different from other classes because students learn how to apply the constitution to current events, civil discourse and how to work in teams.
“What is unique is they participate in these competitions where it’s Senate hearing format and they apply constitutional principles to current events. But what I think is also really unique is it’s not just book learning, they live it. It becomes intensely meaningful the learning they’re doing,” Wulfing said.
This is Wulfing’s 11th year teaching the class and she said she loves being apart of the transformation of the students going from reluctant participants, to “constitutional warriors.”
According to Emily DeBolt, a senior taking part in the We The People class, Wulfing is the best person for teaching this class.
“She could be doing anything right now, but she chooses to help students become civically engaged and we’re just all really thankful for her,” DeBolt said.
Wulfing said this class is a huge time commitment for students to prepare for competition.
She said to prepare, the class is divided into six units. In every unit, three essays are given to be written in four minutes. Once that’s done, they have to prepare for a six minute follow up — she said this is how competitions are done.
During class time, the students do “run-throughs” of this process to get it down.
Wulfing said students are so successful in competition each year not only because of all the practice they do, but also because it’s part of who Tahoma is.
“I believe these students work the hardest and put the most time into it. We also have alumni who come back and work with the students. And I also think it’s part of our bone marrow, it’s who we are. Tahoma High School knows that We The People is a big deal so we get considerable community support, which I think is helpful too. These students also have this incredible work ethic and know what’s expected of them,” she said.
Another student, Jeremiah Briere, said he joined the class because he has some alumni friends who took the class and really enjoyed it.
Briere also said the class is a big deal at Tahoma, so he’s relieved they won state and are going to nationals.
DeBolt agreed and said, “It was a lot of pressure going into it because we didn’t want to be the class that lost. So once we heard that we had won, I think we were all excited that we were able to continue Tahoma’s legacy and get to prove how much knowledge we have in DC.”
The goal for this year’s national competition, according to Wulfing, is to get at least third place.
In the past years, Tahoma has made fourth and seventh in nationals, but she thinks this year’s class is fully capable of making it in the top three.
“The work leading up to it is going to be painful, but I think it’s going to be worth it because the knowledge that we gain from it,” Briere said.