Students who compete in simulated congressional hearings as part of the We the People Program bring their everything. They wear matching outfits, bring customized tablecloths, and display stylized name cards. This enthusiasm for the competition comes, in part, from excitement about showing off what they have learned, but also from a passion about skills and knowledge that are applicable outside of the classroom.
“Participating in We the People is when I remember beginning to understand how something I was studying in school translated to work being done in the real world,” says Monica Lee, a We the People alumna. At her September wedding to Daniel Hart, Lee asked for donations to the We the People program. “My immediate and extended family make a concerted effort to seek out opportunities to help other people to make our communities better places, through work at our churches and in our neighborhoods and I wanted to give people an opportunity to do that as part of our wedding celebration.”
As a child, Monica Lee visited Washington, D.C., often with her family. Her father, Dennis Lee, worked as a teacher, volunteered with the We the People program, and served as the Indiana District Coordinator for many years. She participated in the We the People program as an eighth-grader. For Lee, the program fostered in her a deeper understanding of government’s role in the lives of citizens.
She carried this passion for politics on to a career in public service, working as an intern for the 2008 Obama Campaign for President, an intern in the White House in 2009, and a job as a press assistant in the White House Communications Office in 2011. She has been working in political communications as a career ever since.
The We the People program is offered across the country, giving students opportunities to learn about American government through simulated congressional hearings. Volunteer judges ask students questions regarding the Constitution, the Founders, and more, while encouraging students to link history to current-day events. Winners from state competitions qualify to compete at the national level in the National Invitational and the National Finals. These experiences promote a lifelong sense of civic duty and civic engagement in We the People alumni.
As alumna Monica Lee says, “Now more than ever, I think the We the People program is worth people’s time and resources, since it provides at such an important juncture of kids’ education insight into our democracy, which is important regardless of the field of work you go into.”
Are you a We the People program alumni? Get connected with the Center for Civic Education!