Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

April 17, 2013

PHS class heads to Washington, D.C.

By Brenda L. Holmes

PLAINFIELD —  The Plainfield High School ‘We the People’ class will be competing in a national competition in Washington, D.C., later this month.

Recently, 17 PHS students competed in the state level competition that tests the knowledge on the history and principles of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. The group placed second in the state and qualified for the next round in the District of Columbia.

The team is lead by PHS educator Chris Cavanaugh.

“It’s a mock congressional hearing,” Cavanaugh explained. “The kids are the expert witnesses on constitutional issues.”

The We The People class is made up of seniors completing a government elective. The class has competed in the state level competition for years but this is the first time Plainfield has qualified to go to the national competition.

“I’ve never gone as a teacher,” Cavanaugh said. “I’ve gone before to work at it as a judge but never taken students. So this is a first time for me.”

He has been teaching the class for nearly a decade and said the competition is pretty intense.

“The students are sitting across from judges and attorneys,” he said. “They’re given really difficult questions and they have no notes. It’s a real confidence builder.

“We’ve done well as a class before — we’ve even placed second before, but this year Indiana was eligible for a wild card. So all the fundraising was on us. Mr. (Scott) Olinger, our superintendent, was very supportive and said we could go for it.”

The community pitched in to help raise funds for the trip.

“At first they were going to travel by bus,” said Scott Flood, president of the Plainfield School Board. “Now they are going to get to fly and be able to see more of Washington. We live in a wonderful community that was very supportive.”

Originally, each student’s family would have had to contribute $1,400 for the trip. After several fundraising activities and donations from local businesses and individuals, the family contribution is now under $300.

“I think it really says a lot about the community,” Flood said.

The We The People class will leave for Washington on April 26 and return on May 2.

“The top 10 will get to compete in the final round on Capitol Hill,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s really impressive. Indiana teams usually do incredibly well. We hope to have two teams in the top 10 this year but it will be a difficult task.”