East Grand Rapids — Adam Horos admits he had never heard of the We the People program before joining the staff at East Grand Rapids High School as a social studies teacher.
He learned quickly, though.
EGR is a perennial powerhouse in the program, which Horos said sees students study general concepts and themes in the Constitution before digging more deeply into a specific topic – everything from what’s in the Bill of Rights to how the framers first created the Constitution.
They use that knowledge first in a state competition and then at nationals (if they qualify), competing against other high school teams in a simulated congressional hearing.
“We have been competing since 2000 and have won 15 times,” Horos said.
The 2022 competition, which was held in early January over Zoom, brought home the most recent title for East, which fielded a team of 24 sophomores and juniors. And, like last year, it was a 1-2 sweep for Kent ISD schools, as the powerhouse East Kentwood team finished second. Both teams also qualified for nationals.
‘Spending your day with your team is exciting, and impressing the judges is rewarding.’— junior Lillian Wynott
Horos began as coach in 2015, taking the reins from longtime We the People coach Janice Yates who began the school’s track record of success.
And despite coming into the program with no prior knowledge, Horos said he’s now hooked.
“I think it does so much for students,” he said. “It helps them become better writers, speakers and thinkers. Not all students go into a political or legal profession, but they all talk about how impactful the experience was for them. And if I didn’t think it had such an impact, I would not devote so much time to it.”
Develops Relationships and Knowledge
His students agree.
They started their season in September and ended in January, unless they choose to go to nationals held over Zoom in late April. East Kentwood is competing at nationals on a wild card bid.
During the season the EGR team meets for six hours a week outside school to talk about current issues and ideas and to quiz each other.
‘It helps them become better writers, speakers and thinkers. Not all students go into a political or legal profession, but they all talk about how impactful the experience was for them.’— Adam Horos, EGR coach
For junior Lillian Wynott the chance to be part of the team has both a head and a heart component.
“I like how it develops relationships and develops my knowledge of the government,” she said.
And what especially makes the program worthwhile, she said, are the competitions. “Spending your day with your team is exciting, and impressing the judges is rewarding.”
Teammate and fellow junior Tucker White feels the same way.
Though acknowledging that it’s a lot of work, he added that the payoffs are two-fold: “How much your knowledge grows, as well as being able to hang out with people.”