Local News

Saturday, Dec 04 2010 09:09 PM

Arvin wins 'We the People' title

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    After putting on an outstanding presentation with his unit 2 team from Arvin High School, Jose Gurrola, receives a congratulatory kiss from his mother, Olivia Gurrola. This was during the annual "We the People," competition that tests high school students on constitutional knowledge, Saturday, at North High School.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Dr. Jim Young congratulates an Arvin High "We the People," competitor, Saturday, at North High during the annual event. Young helps coach, Robert Ruckman, coach the students in the constitutional knowledge competition.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Arvin High head coach for the "We the People," team Robert Ruckman, center, and assistant coach, Dr. Jim Young, right, encourage one of several Arvin teams, Saturday, at North High before one of the morning competition sessions. The students left to right are, Jose Gurrola, Yanira Martinez, Bryan Cervantes, Nopjira Wongvithoothai, and not seen, is Cecilia Vazquez, talking to Jim Young.

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BY STEVEN MAYER, Californian staff writer smayer@bakersfield.com

If you've ever had occasion to shake your head and grumble about "kids these days," you should attend the academic competitions known as "We the People."

What you will find -- as many did at Saturday's event at North High School -- are hundreds of sharply dressed, well-mannered, studious, intelligent teenagers who will blow you away with their knowledge of the concepts and documents upon which our nation was founded. Not only that. It's fun to watch.

Related Info

Overall Champion: Arvin High School

20th Congressional District: first place -- Arvin; second -- Ridgeview; third -- Delano

22nd Congressional District: first -- Centennial; second -- Liberty; third -- Golden Valley

Arvin High Teacher/Coach, Robert Ruckman

Ghaan Alshaif, Marcelino Bautista, Bryan Cervantes, Alexis Cervantes, Kimberly Chanes, Carlos Clemente, Frank Clemente Savalz, Christian Contreras, Karina Duran, Julieta Figueroa, Anallili Gallardo, Samantha Gallardo, Christina Gomez, Alejandro Guapo, Jose Gurrola, Luis Hernandez Cazar, Nikki Kirkley, Alfredo Marroquin, Yanira Martinez, Christian Montoya, Alicia Moreno, Blaine Mustoe, Lucerno Rivera, Yesenia Rodriguez, Luis Rosales Patino, Cecilia Vazquez, Raquel Verduzco, Ruth Verduzco, Nopjira Wongvitoothai

Centennial High Teacher/Coach, Ryan Coleman

Micaela Baker, Taylor Bateman, Andrew Carlson, Ryan Chapman, Lance Collins, Rocio Cruz, Charles Cummins, Brandon Louey, Carly Maxwell, Sarah Moore, Grant Novins, Bailey Olsen, Grace Peters, Ryan Phillips, Brooke Proctor, Nico Salum, Liz Sanchez, Allie Shafer, Courtney Shipp, Lev Smelash, Lydia Speirs, Mark Trudel, Catie Witthans, Zaidong Yang

Delano High Teacher/Coach, Sari Sprouse

Reyes Arreola, Robert Avitia, Junior Bolanos, Stephany Cabrera, Ruben Carranza, Jennifer Castro, Christian Chavez, Cecilia Contreras, Karina Garcia, Kindra Geivet, Jasmine Gonzalez, Hector Guzman, Valeria Hernandez, Jose Jaime, Marlene Juban, Joanna Marquez, Micky Mejia, Daniel Mendez, Maria Robles, Monica Salas, Brenda Tellez, Cristal Torres, Luis Torres, Jesus Uballe, Sonya Vargas, Dylan Zachary

East Bakersfield High Teacher/Coach, Keith Reding

Everett Beeman, Frank Daniel, Jr., Ivan Flores, John Gallagher, Sophia Garcia, Irma Garcia, Nicholas Gonzalez, Emilio Gonzalez, Kasey Graves, Sean Guerra, Joseph Hammack, Akkeli Holley, Alexander Holthaus, William Martin IV, Miquel Martinez, Camille McLewis, Graycie Monsibais, Nancy Ramirez, Mathew Randolph, Nicklaus Wilkening

Foothill High Teacher/Coach, Terri Richmond

Alvaro Amaya, Samantha Barraza, Kelsey Best, Roxanne Burke, Elizabeth Cabrera, Yasmine Castaneda, Katie Cox, Emma DeLaRosa, Allyson Duvick, Lauren Hunter, Daniel Kooren, Ezequiel Lopez III, Ebony Lyons, Dominique Magallanes, Erika Magana, Michaela Maher, Nancy Maza, Mercedes Melgar, Veronica Mercado, Jackie Montes, Kaitlyn Mrasak, Lorie Perez, Melany Perez, Maria Sepulveda, Briana Tafoya, Irma Valtierra, Nathan Vance, Perla Veloz, Angel Ventura, Jeanette Wilson, Zion Wulfekuehler, Edward Yanez

Golden Valley High Teacher/Coach, John Hansen

Max Alvarez, Jacque Barrera, Edgar Basave, Miguel Bautista, Giovanna Campos, Erik Castellanos, Laura Castro, Cristal Contreras, Collin Danley, Eduardo Duarte, Vanessa Duran, Brandon Gonzalez, Erriko Guimte, Juan Heredia, Janette Hernandez, Jeffrey Holland, Michelle Huete, Glenda Jauregui, Katarina Lopez, Jessie Martinez, Esmeralda Murillo, Pedro Naveiras, Stefani Palacios, Alan Perez, Ryan Perkins, Liliana Sanchez, Denisse Silva, Glen Tenorio, Esteban Vega

Highland High Teacher/Coach, James Maddox

Gabriel Arellano, Adrian Arroyo, Hillary Belo, Zachary Burdick, Angelique Burgess, Jesus Carizoza, Justine Castenada, Haley Davis, Heena Doshi Hee, Danielle Enriques, Thomas Kizziar, Jesus Lopez, Johnathan Marchini, Katherine Mayberry, Alexander Mercado, Alejandro Meza, Victoria Nakagawa, Michael Shaffer, Lauren Vinson, Eryn Worthing, David Wright

Liberty High Teacher/Coach, Eric Ball

Alexis Bailey, Natalie Bickett, Zach Burks, Mariah Cadena, Cameron Califf, Rebecca Castro, KC Clifton, Addison Coronel, Jake Graff, Charity Jensen, Daniel Kinder, Alexander Le, Emilee Lee, Jordan Lewis, Mariah Lopez, Daniel Ly, Alex Melton, Cameron Moody, Kelsie Netzer, Thomas Nilon, Phoenix Plotner, Doug Porter, John Rodriguez, Drake Rutter, Parker Schill, Katie Sewell, Jacquelyne Studer, Jordan Thoennes, Liz Tjepkema, Anh Tran, Ryan Wattonville

Mira Monte High Teacher/Coach, Anna Knight

Rim Alammari, Miguel Aldas, Alejandro Angulo Villag, Veronica Avila, Gloria Chavez, Priscilla Chavez, Javier Cortez, Enrique Damian, Tiffany Earnest, Saleh Fadhel, Desiderio Flores, Guadalupe Flores, Celina Franco, Cruz Herrera, Alyssa Infante, Mario Iniguez, Hailey Lauderdale, Yesenia Leon, Sergio Macias, Thalia Marroquin, Jose Moreno, Alex Norman Washington, Cora Padilla, Natalie Palomar, Juan Perez, Cruz Quinonez, Manuel Ramirez, Eduardo Ramos Serna, Maria Ruelas, Janette Sanchez, Vanessa Sandoval, Justin Smith, Albert Snow

Ridgeview High Teacher/Coach, Jason Jenkins

Alandra Avila, Joseph Barham, Jonathan Bradford, Ruby Cervantes, Cayce Chernenko, Andrea Cruz, Cody Fackler, Nicolas Fequiere, Jordan Fulmer, Ruben Garcia, Sukhmeet Gill, Indervir Gill, Harvey Hightower, Corey Hobbs, Harpreet Kaur, Guadalupe Loya, Onyx Mora, Ryanna Morua, Presley Obenshain, Lawrence Olsen, Alejandra Plasencia, Reuben Raynes, Matthew Reid, Kelsie Richards, Manpreet Sandhu, Tawny Schafer, Antonia Silva, Kenneth Willoughby, Leslie Yacopetti, Amber York

Shafter High Teacher/Coach, Daniel Garza

Zuhay Alamos, Victor Aldaro, Santiago Ayala, Bryan Beach, Mayra Buenrostro, Julian Calvillo, Andrina Carillo, David Dominguez, Ashley Espitia, Ashley Feinberg, Alexandria Flores, Zachary Foster, Eleazar Garza, Evelyn Guevara, Diana Herrera, Mark Jara, Laura Juarez, Horacio Lazaro, Jasmin Lopez, Edith Lopez, Juan Mejia, Maria Picos, Mitzi Ramirez, Selene Raya, Priscila Razo, Phillip Rice, Alma Ruelas, Crysta Wilderson

South High

Teacher/Coach, James Dominguez

Kiaret Acevedo, Kayelalah Asanion, Claudia Ascencio, Vanessa Banuelos, Joseph Brinkmann, Evelyn Bugarin, Vanity Coleman, James Cutler, Gabriela Delgadillo, Iliana Fierros, Jefflyne Fitts, Rene Gone, Gage Greene, Krystina Guinto, Elizabeth Gutierrez, Amaris Millan, Berenise Ramirez, Trevor Roberts, Isam Saba, Gagandeep Samra, Joule Thomas, Bradley Tovar, Matthew Towe, Diane Valdez, Leanne Willingham, Sophia Willis

West High

Teacher/Coach, Angela Jenkins

Danica Adoc, Samson Ahferom, Sarina Alemengor, Janette Avelar, Ali Ayyad, Justin Breeland, Trishia Brown, Laura Campos, Stephanie Campos, Vanessa Cervantes, Nooshin Chowdhury, Jordan Contreas, Candida Estrada, Alejandra Flores, Venus Fultz, Erica Gutierrez, Bre Anna Hayes, Donna Hernandez, Martin Hernandez, Kuljeet Kaberwal, Nanatzy Madrigal, Jonathan Martinez, Shaylynn Molloy, Jennifer Nusser, Ramandeep Rai, Manuel Ramirez, Kari Reichert, Javier Rocha, Michelle Rosas, Sarah Self, Juliet Sisk, Carlos Soriano

'WE THE PEOPLE' RESULTS, ROSTERS

"Good job! We're on the hunt!" Arvin High Assistant Coach Larry Hallum told his team during a short break in the action Saturday.

"We just kicked a field goal," Hallum continued with his sports metaphor-filled pep talk. "I just wish we had scored a touchdown."

Arvin must have scored several touchdowns Saturday, because at the end of the daylong academic contest, the team was named the overall winner for the third year running.

"It took a lot of hard work, but it paid off," said Arvin senior Blaine Mustoe, the team captain.

"This is a great tradition at Arvin High School," Mustoe continued as his teammates and coaches celebrated at Rosemary's Creamery. "As freshmen, we saw upperclassmen walking around campus with their medals. This year, we wanted to continue that tradition."

Saturday's Region 4 competition saw 13 Kern County high schools competing for a chance to win either the 20th or 22nd Congressional District title, depending on the district in which they were seeded. Arvin took home the 20th District trophy, while Centennial High repeated last year's win in the 22nd.

"Arvin emerged in close scoring as the overall regional champion based on the total combined scores of two rounds of hearings," according to a news release for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, which coordinated the event. That means Arvin will represent Kern County in the state championships held during the first week of February in Sacramento. But Centennial may still have a way in. Last year, Centennial and third-place finisher Foothill High were wild card selections.

So how does a school like Arvin win three regional championships in three years? Large numbers of students in the little farming community speak English as a second language. Many didn't grow up learning American history or enjoying the unique rights laid out in the Constitution.

"I tell my students hard work will overcome any disadvantage," said Arvin coach Robert Ruckman, who competed on Arvin's team in 1998. "If you're willing to work, I'm willing to be there with you every step of the way."

Most teams begin in June, adding 10 or more hours a week to the students' already packed schedules. Then it picks up in September.

"You get into class and start working, working, working," said 17-year-old Ryan Chapman, a member of Centennial's high-performing team.

The work is rewarding, too.

"I've really enjoyed this," Chapman added. "I've learned a lot and had a lot of fun."

Instead of wearing shoulder pads and helmets, these competitors are armed with knowledge, reams of information and the ability to answer tough, penetrating questions from judges -- on the spot. The schools don't compete head-to-head. Each team individually presents testimony in a series of mock congressional hearings.

"Why have First-Amendment rights been so important," one judge asked a five-member unit of Arvin's 29-member team.

Without pausing, Arvin student Christian Montoya began: "The First Amendment is central to a free society for five reasons."

Then in rapid-fire delivery, the five students answered the question, dividing the effort as each asserted a specific point. In a way it all comes down to 20 minutes. All those hours and days and weeks of preparation are compressed like an explosive gas down to a maximum of 20 minutes of competition for each student.

Besides learning how to perform under pressure, what students ultimately discover is that the intensive study helps them understand the American system of government, the genius of the Constitution, the concept of the wall of separation -- and especially the critical need for Americans to actively participate in their own governance.

Golden Valley team member Ryan Perkins, 17, said he's learned that federal laws may clash with state laws and sometimes with individual rights. But the Constitution is not just a bunch of abstract concepts.

"It affects us in our everyday lives," he said.

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