AHS Constitution Team Takes 4th at State Competition

Stephanie Wang, News Editor

Following months of rapid research, dynamic discussion, and relentless revisions, members from Arcadia High School’s (AHS) Constitution Team (Gov Team) competed at state competition on Feb. 3 at the Hilton Sacramento Arden West, to conclude yet another successful competition season with a 4th place finish. Taking the podium at states were Foothill High School, Amador Valley High School, and Centennial High School, which captured 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, respectively.

During the competition, members from AHS’ Gov Team, advised and coached by Ms. Megan Leahy, were divided into six units, with five people in each unit focusing on a topic relating to the Constitution. In their units, competitors used historical and constitutional evidence to prepare testimonies in response to questions asked at competition, before facing a round of open questioning from judges.

In addition to competing, Gov Team members were also able to take an inside tour of the California State Assembly Hall in the state’s capitol, which is usually closed off to the general public. After posing for a picture inside the hall, competitors continued to explore Old Sacramento, strolling through restaurants, stores, and snack bars.

To prepare for competition, Gov Team members underwent intense individual and team-based practice in addition to keeping up with their coursework as students of Ms. Leahy’s AP US Government class. Competitors also participated in a round of “chambers” every Monday night—a simulated competition round in which the Gov Team faced questions and received feedback from local lawyers and AHS alumni.

According to Gov Team competitor Phoebe Wang, a member of Unit 3, which focuses on constitutional amendments, preparation involved a significant time commitment at the individual, unit-based, and team-based levels. The first level, as Wang describes, involved each individual competitor learning the material necessary to answer the question posed during competition, often by perusing court cases, recent news, and legal briefings and legislation. Afterward, Gov Team members collaborated with their unit to develop written responses and ideas at the second level.

“Arguing with Darren Kuo, my fellow unit member, was actually very, very helpful in preparing for State Finals because it helped sharpen both of our arguments. Our arguments were a challenge in the beginning, though, since we could not agree on what direction to take our written response,” said Wang. “It worked out in the end, though. After lots and lots of discussion and reading and debate.”

At the team level, members of each unit reached across units to gain a more nuanced understanding of the Constitution—not just one limited to a competitor’s individual unit specialty.

For Wang, talking with members from Unit 1, specializing in political philosophy, and Unit 5, specializing in the Bill of Rights, and Unit 6, specializing in the Constitution in the context of modern times, proved to be extremely helpful when developing her arguments.

Wang also attributes her time on Gov Team as immensely helpful to her development as a competitor, student, and speaker.

“I became a lot more confident, well-spoken, and knowledgeable. That itself makes me immensely grateful to have been able to be a part of this team,” said Wang, reflecting on her progress since her first practice chambers session. “It was such a pleasure to learn about various political philosophies and actually become civically-minded. Through this program, I was able to learn so much and meet many brilliant people who I consider very close friends today.”

Fellow Gov Team competitor and Unit 4 member Nathan Vuong agreed. “Overall, Gov Team has given me a significantly better understanding of our system of government and has allowed me to meet so many others passionate about studying our Constitution. It also really helped me develop my public speaking,” he said.

Competition aside, Gov Team’s experience at state competition, as well as all the months of preparation and hard work leading up to it, has undoubtedly been an incredibly rewarding and educational experience, with Gov Team members fulfilling Ms. Leahy’s wish for her students to “walk away with a new appreciation for our government system and a desire to be engaged civically for the rest of their lives.”

“Could we have prepared better, or more? Probably,” said Wang. “But looking back, I don’t regret putting in the effort that I did. I still feel that it was a wonderful experience.”

Photos courtesy of Megan Leahy