When I was in high school, I competed in what I describe to others as the “Constitutional Law Debate team” in East Brunswick, N.J. The program is run by the Center for Civic Education and focuses on civic responsibility and helping students develop an understanding of the U.S. Constitution.
Every year, East Brunswick sends a team to the state competition; and many years, the East Brunswick team is sent to represent New Jersey in the national-level competition in Washington, D.C.
Outside the National Museum of American History. Flickr photo by Stephanie Joyal.
On years when East Brunswick is sent to D.C., alumni living in the area are invited to a reunion dinner and given the opportunity to prepare the team before national competition begins. Of course, in addition to meeting the team for preparation, I also joined them during their visit to the National Museum of American History.
I was touched by how excited these kids were to see the history they’ve been learning as expressed through the “real” objects. The group studying equal rights wanted to see the Greensboro lunch counter. Those examining Lincoln were desperate to see the exhibition and buy Lincoln top hats. As an employee, I sometimes forget how cool our collections, scholarship, and programs are.
After spending last year as a classroom teacher, I was energized to work directly with students again. I believe that “it takes a village to raise a child,” and it was wonderful to give back to my alma mater’s community and to a program that meant so much for me as a student.
Jenny Wei is an education specialist at the National Museum of American History.