Friday, March 20, 2009

Marshwood High School Students Compete in
U.S. Constitution National Finals

By Magen Petit
Staff Columnist
The senior students from the Advanced Placement Government class at Marshwood High School will travel to Washington, D.C. on Friday, Apr. 24 where they will represent Maine in the national finals of We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution.
According to the We the People web site, “The primary goal… is to promote civic competence and responsibility among the nation’s elementary and secondary students… [It] enhances students understanding of the institutions of American constitutional democracy. At the same time, students discover the contemporary relevance of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”
About 1,200 high school students from all 50 states and Saipan will participate in the highly prestigious academic competition on the U.S. Constitution.
Leading the seniors is Social Studies teacher Matt Sanzone. This is Sanzone’s sixth year coaching students into the state and national levels of We the People.
“It is a tremendous honor to represent Marshwood and
the State of Maine at the National Finals,” said Sanzone. “This group of students is incredibly talented and motivated. Their performance at the state championship was exceptional.”
The Marshwood students have studied for months to prepare for their role as experts testifying on constitutional issues in a simulated congressional hearing.
Twenty-six Marshwood students competed at the state level against the Portland-based all-girls Catholic college preparatory high school, Catherine McAuley, on Wednesday, Mar. 4. Marshwood swept all six units, defeating McAuley, and winning the state championship.
“The curriculum consists of six units with 39 lessons addressing principles of constitutional democracy and a culminating authentic performance assessment,” according to the web site.
“In all six years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never seen a final result like this year,” explained an excited Sanzone. “This group is very motivated and had an excellent performance for the judges.”
Out of the 26 students, only 14 will travel to Washington, D.C. to compete at the national level. The other 12 students have a pre-paid European trip they will be on.
The first round of the national finals will be held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott,
Arlington, Va., Saturday, Apr. 25 and Sunday, Apr. 26. Now in its 22nd year, the competition involves entire classes making presentations and answering questions on constitutional topics before a panel of judges recruited from across the country. Constitutional scholars, lawyers, and government leaders, acting as congressional committee members, will judge the students’ performances. The combined scores of the classes during the first two days of hearings will determine the top 10 classes to compete in the championship round Monday, Apr. 27 in congressional hearing rooms in the Senate Dirksen Office Building.
Senior Sean Strausser is nervous and excited for the competition, but optimistic.
“I feel we have a strong chance,” said Strausser. “We prepare well for it and I think we’re ready for it. We practice all the time and we know what we’re talking about.”
With the amount of work and practice to prepare for the state and national level, it all pays off in the end.
“We each have to write papers and we combine those and end up writing more papers,” explained senior Katelyn Connolly on how to prepare for the competitions. “The practice is worth it for D.C. It’s a good reward in the end.”
The annual three-day final competition is the culminating activity of We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution, the most extensive civic education program of its kind in the country. The Marshwood students have been studying We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution, developed by the Center for Civic Education. The text provides students with an understanding of the fundamental values and principles of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. During their stay in Washington, D.C., the students will tour historical sites and have an opportunity to visit Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and District 1 Representative Chellie Pingree.
Besides Strausser and Connolly, other students representing Marshwood at the National Finals are: Elise Amioka, Chris Bowen, Erin Carter, Tyler Corbly, Kari DiCecco, Cara Evans, July Flores, Sarah Kent, Marc Michaud, Sam Parady, Chris Protzmann, and Maria Sedler.
“Our big challenge now is fundraising. Each student needs to raise approximately $500 to help pay for the travel and lodging expenses. We are hoping the community will be supportive and help finance the trip,” said Sanzone.
For more information on the competition visit or anyone interested in helping support the students can contact Matt Sanzone at Marshwood High School at (207) 384-4500.
Photo caption: The senior students from the Advanced Placement Government class at Marshwood High School recently won the state competition of We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution. They will be competing at the national level on Friday, Apr. 24 in Washington, D.C. (Weekly Sentinel photo)