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Sunday, Feb 17 2013 11:08 PM

Arvin's We the People team earns invitation to national competition

BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer jburger@bakersfield.com

Arvin High School, which claimed a second-place finish in the We the People competition at the state level on Feb. 9, has been granted a special invitation to the national competition in April.

Coach Robert Ruckman learned the news on Friday afternoon.

"We got a call from the state director as well as the national director to tell us that we were selected," he said.

Ruckman said his students erupted with excitement when he announced the news in class. They wanted to start training again immediately.

He had to calm them down and tell them to go enjoy their weekend.

Practice sessions, he told them, start this coming week.

"They were overjoyed to be able to continue on with their hard work and compete at the national level," Ruckman said. "Nationals is a really big deal. Almost all of (the team members) have never been to the east coast or Washington, D.C."

The competition, first held in 1987, measures teams of students' understanding of the United States Constitution. They are required to present and debate legal arguments about the Constitution before panels of academics and lawyers.

In the past four years, the winning team in the California state competition has placed in the top three in the nation, according to the website for the Center for Civic Education, the nonprofit group that hosts the competition.

Arvin High School got an invitation to the national competition exactly because of the state's reputation for fielding tough, competitive teams.

"California is, by all accounts, the most competitive state in the nation," Ruckman said.

He said his students are ready to continue the hard work and long training sessions that got them a second-place finish. They'll need to if they're going to overtake the first-place finisher from California -- Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton.

"They're going to have to double down to effectively represent California and Kern County. They've worked so hard. It's really significant," Ruckman said.

The competition will be held at George Mason University in Washington, D.C., April 26-28, he said.

It's the first time that Arvin High will attend the national competition.

"This is a culmination of a lot of years of great support from our principals and the Kern High School District," Ruckman said.

And it's a special moment for Ruckman himself, a government and economics teacher at Arvin.

"I was a We the People student myself when I was at Arvin High," he said. He's excited at "taking these kids to a level I never got to take part in."

The members of the Arvin High School team, according to an earlier story in The Californian, are: Reymundo Aguilar, Veronica Avila, Angel Azipitarte, Mayra Bautista, Clara Bruno, Edgar Campos, Karen Clemente, Frances Escalera, Jessica Esquivel, Donna Europa, Estephanie Gomez, Nick Hernandez, Erick Herrera, Eva Lopez, David Martinez, Maneli Ortiz, Rafael Ramirez, Malcolm Rivera, Victor Rivera, Maria Sandoval, Desiree Valdez, Edith Vasquez, Elizabeth Vasquez, Mariela Vega, Lisset Zavala and Jose Zuniga.

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