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VA Civics is the home of We the People: the Citizen and Constitution and Project Citizen in Virginia



Committed to
Programs that Work

Through the student-focused We the People and Project Citizen programs, VA Civics brings civic learning into the 21st century by providing resources on challenging constitutional questions, rooted in the history and theory of the American founding.

We the People

All Ages

We the People: the Citizen and the Constitution instructs students in the history and principles of American constitutional democracy, allowing them to study the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in depth. The program promotes civic competence and responsibility among the nation’s elementary, middle, and secondary school students. 

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Project Citizen

All Ages

Project Citizen promotes competent and responsible participation in local and state government. Through the program, students learn how to monitor and influence public policy. The curriculum fosters support for democratic values and principles, tolerance, and feelings of political efficacy, and it applies learning to real public policy issues of concern. 

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Middle & High School

Teachers may choose to have their students compete in organized We the People competitions, which take the shape of simulated congressional hearings, or Project Citizen showcases. Virginia Civics organizes regional and state We the People competitions where students have the opportunity to compete against teams from across the Commonwealth, and we support in-school events.

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"We the People is one of the best things I have done as a teacher, and it revolutionized how I teach."

Beth Herndon, Orange County High School

A History of Success

Since 1987

We the People: the Citizen and the Constitution was developed under the auspices of Chief Justice Warren Burger in the 1980s. The program has since been managed nationally by the Center for Civic Education, a non-profit that provides the format for the We the People program, produces supporting textbooks and materials, and organizes an annual national student competition each spring. In the three decades since its inception, We the People has been hailed for its effectiveness in engaging and educating young people on the U.S. Constitution and our government, instilling in them not only the knowledge, but also the skills and dispositions to participate constructively and continually in the civic life of our nation.

We the People Works

Making a Difference

The Proof is in the Participation

Since its inception, We the People has been consistently recognized as a standout in civic education. In repeated studies, Educational Testing Services found that We the People students “significantly outperformed… [other students] on every topic.” Similarly, assessments by experts at Georgetown University and Stanford University found that students who took part in We the People performed “significantly higher” on tests of civic knowledge and showed a “greater commitment to democratic principles.” The U.S. Department of Education has also praised We the People as “contributing to excellence in education.” Perhaps nothing is more telling than the simple statistic that over 90% of We the People alumni vote in every election, which is nearly twice the rate of their peers.

Civil Discourse & Teamwork

Students work together and engage in reasoned and sound debate with their teams.

Evidence-Based Reasoning

Students research using primary source documents.

Critical Thinking

Students are encouraged to challenge assumptions and think from all sides.
Paying More Attention to What's Going On
More Prepared to be Involved in the Community
Program alumni who vote

Professional Development for Teachers

To better prepare students for their roles in our constitutional democracy, VA Civics offers professional development seminars for educators and provides teachers with full funding for a year of training opportunities, where renowned scholars teach content over a rigorous four-day Summer Institute, and shorter follow-up trainings in the fall and spring.

What Do you want to know?

Questions And Answers

Consider applying for our yearly teacher training cohorts for complete training and materials related to the We the People program.

We love to have program alumni involved in all aspects of Virginia Civics. Get in touch with us at [email protected] for volunteer opportunities in competitions, classroom support, and VA Civics operations.

We are always looking for competition volunteers to serve as judges, facilitators, and timers. Check out our Volunteer page for more info and to join the list.

The Virginia We the People program and other programs of VA Civics are only possible through the generosity of donors. Please consider making a gift to support the work of VA Civics through our online giving portal. We can accept gifts via cash, check, credit card, or transfer of stock. We appreciate recurring gifts, which are processed once monthly.

Absolutely not. Our programs encourage constitutional literacy and critical thinking. Students are taught the history of ideas and the reasons behind them, instead of merely memorizing a list of facts. Each lesson includes critical thinking exercises and interactive activities so they not only study information, but also interpret it through thought-provoking questions. As a result, students are able to think through what they are learning and form their own opinions based on reason and research.

Consider joining our Virginia Civics Coalition, a growing partnership dedicated to advancing effective civic education and engagement efforts through a shared commitment to nonpartisan, student-focused, comprehensive practices and policies.

Emily Voss

Emily Voss comes to civic education from the museum world, where she was passionate about making museums relevant to the modern world. She currently serves as the Manager of National Programs for the Center for Civic Education. Prior to that, she served as the Education Director at the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison’s Montpelier where she spent the past decade developing programs for adult professionals that invited engagement with America’s founding documents. She served as the Virginia State Coordinator of the We the People program for 10 years and is a co-founder of Virginia Civics. Emily holds a BA in History from Gettysburg College, and an MA in Museum Education from the Cooperstown Graduate Program (SUNY). She and her family currently reside in central Virginia.

Co-Executive Director & Chief Programs Officer

Jen Patja

Jen Patja has dedicated her career to strengthening constitutional self-government through her work with Virginia Civics, the Center for Civic Education, and Montpelier’s Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution, where she served as Deputy Director. Jen is a co-founder of Virginia Civics, and serves as a House of Delegates-appointed member of the Virginia Commission on Civic Education, a state legislative commission. She is the producer and editor of “Rational Security,” a weekly foreign policy and national security roundup, and “The Lawfare Podcast,” a daily audio production in cooperation with the Brookings Institution. Jen has held teaching and research positions at the University of Virginia, most notably in Criminology and the school’s University Internship Program with the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. She received her master’s in Sociology from the University of Virginia, and a bachelor’s in English from the University of California, Berkeley.

Co-Executive Director & Chief Operating Officer

Amelia Bochain

Amelia Bochain has devoted her professional life to effective social studies education that fosters civil discourse. As a classroom teacher for nine years, she implemented project-based learning that focused on civic engagement and encouraging effective discussion skills. She is particularly passionate about the We the People program, where she coached teams that placed in regional, state, and national competitions.

State Coordinator