Four minutes of speaking. Six minutes of answering questions. Ten minutes overall. That is the entire competition process for students taking We the People. But the process of preparing for this short amount of time is a difficult, but ultimately rewarding one.

Senior Tiba Altower is one of many seniors taking We the People this year, and she’s striving to take the team to the National competition in Washington D.C. “I decided to take We the People because I took CHAP last year, and wanted to study government at a more advanced level,” said Altower. “I also am intrigued by the competitive aspect of the class, too, because I want to see how far we can make it.” 

There’s a lot of work to be done by the students, but teachers Robbie Pelkey and Adam Ferguson have just as much, if not more, to do.

Ferguson has led five We the People teams to the State competition and is currently working on sending his 6th team. “We compete in arguably the toughest regional competition in the state,” he said. “There are other states where We the People is strong, such as Oregon and Virginia, but the program was really created and established right here in Indiana.”

Altower explained that to prepare for competition, each unit studies its focus, like the philosophical foundations of the American Government, how the framers made the Constitution or how the Constitution has changed over time. As the date for the competition becomes sooner, units then do mock competitions every day leading up to the competition. “We have practiced a lot leading up to competition, so I don't think it'll be a problem,” she said. “I do believe we will win Regionals and go to State.”

Even though this is his sixth trip to Regionals, the experience never repeats itself for Ferguson. “For me, each year is a unique and exciting challenge as I am continuously learning the content to help figure out the best way to help the students learn the content as well,” he said. “This is especially true with the State competition questions, as they are more complicated and cover different topics each year.”

Whether or not they move on to the next step, Altower feels the experience has been beneficial. “I love philosophy and government, so my favorite part of the class has been the actual research and learning that we've done in the past months,” said Altower. “One of my favorite components of this class is the fact that it's mostly independent, where you have the freedom to do things on your own time, as long as you're prepared to compete.”

Ferguson agreed:  “I love We the People for two main reasons. One, it is one of those classes where I get to see students come in with very little civic knowledge and they leave at the end of the semester knowing more about civics than most adults. Not only does their content knowledge grow immensely, but I see passion and civil discourse develop, which is my main goal for the program. Second, I love this course because I am continuously humbled by what I do not know. Every year, I feel like I am learning about civics just as much as my students. It is so nice to teach a class that challenges me mentally as well, and keeps me passionate about the content.”

Story by Connor Burress