It may not have been the hugging, high-fiving celebration they deserved.
But Staples High School’s “We the People” team looked ecstatic last night, as they learned — online — that they won the Northeast US championship in the Center for Civic Education’s annual competition.
So instead, the 23 team members and faculty advisor Suzanne Kammerman celebrated virtually.
That’s the same way they had competed the day before. In a nerve-wracking session, 6 different groups answered judges’ difficult questions about history, policy and law.
They nailed it.
Their performance — placing them Number 5 nationally, the highest-ever finish for a Staples “We the People” team — was well earned. It was the result of months of research, writing and preparation by the crew. They were aided by volunteers like Andy Laskin and Jamie Dockray.
Staples advanced to the finals by winning the state championship in December. The victory — which snapped Trumbull High’s 8-year stranglehold on first place — earned the Westporters a trip to Washington, DC. It would be the culmination of the school year, and all their hard work.
COVID-19 upended those plans. But the teenagers went right back to work, readying themselves for the virtual version of nationals.
Kammerman — who participated in “We the People” herself more than 20 years ago, as a Shelton High student — hails her team.
“They performed remarkably,” she says. “I’m heartbroken they missed out on the trip to D.C., because I know what they would have experienced and accomplished there.
“But this experience gave the students a sense of community and purpose that was so necessary during very uncertain times. I told them that someday when their grandchildren ask about the coronavirus pandemic, they’ll have a pretty cool story to tell them.”
Congratulations to Staples’ “We the People” team, their coach and assistants. We the Westporters are very, very proud.