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They the People: EGR brings home another state championship

Long season of prep culminates in ultimate prize, with East Kentwood placing second

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.

How perennial?

“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.”

East Kentwood High School’s team finished second in the 2022 We the People state finals, and has accepted a wild card bid to the National Finals in April (courtesy)

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.”

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Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan covers East Grand Rapids and Kelloggsville and is the lead reporter for Grand Rapids. He hails from Exeter, Ontario (but has called Grand Rapids home since 1985) and is the son of a longtime public school teacher who taught both English and machine shop. Phil took both classes at South Huron District High School, but English stuck, and at Calvin College, where he met his wife, Sue, he majored in English and minored in journalism. His background includes both journalism and public relations, including teaching an advertising and PR course at the college level for almost a decade. In the summer of 2019, he began his own writing and communications business, de Haan Communications. In his spare time, Phil plays pick-up hockey and pickleball and tries to keep tabs on his two adult children. Read Phil's full bio

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