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A little over half a year ago, I refreshed my email for the hundredth time and caught my breath when I finally found what I was looking for. My heart pounded as I scanned the list of students who had been accepted into my school’s “We The People” program, a rigorous civics education curriculum in which high school seniors demonstrate their knowledge of the Constitution, government, and politics by competing in mock congressional hearings.
I had been dreaming of having the privilege of competing with this team from the moment I observed a previous team in a practice competition the year before. These high school seniors easily handled every question from the panel of experienced lawyers and public officials facing them, rattling off studies, statistics, and Supreme Court cases to back up every assertion. I was astounded at the depth of knowledge and level of mastery I observed that day.
A year after I watched that practice competition, I submitted my application essays and endured a nerve-racking interview process. And finally, the day I’d been waiting for: I opened my email to see the list of accepted applicants, scrolled down, and found my name.
We the People changed my life forever. It was the most demanding, the most rigorous, and the most intense learning experience I had ever encountered: three-hour practices a day, 6 days a week, in addition to meetings with my 4-person competition “unit” outside of school to prepare for these practices. I immersed myself in studies of government and politics at a depth I previously could never have fathomed. As a result, my public speaking skills improved considerably, as did my ability to think on my feet and support my assertions. Despite the sleep deprivation and occasional frustration, I would do it all again any day for the university-level knowledge, skills, and insight I came away with.
We the People has solidified my dreams and aspirations for a future related to politics, and the politicians and academic speakers I met with the team on our trip to Washington, D.C. — such as the House Majority Leader and one of California’s Senators — not only inspired me, but provided me with valuable connections in a diverse, teeming city in which I hope to one day live and work.
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