Traffic Safety- Providence, RI
“I had no idea passing legislation was so tricky, and that our Representatives don’t even write these laws!”
Oscar Giron, an 11th grader from E Cubed Academy, made this observation after a meeting with Providence Rep. Anastasia Williams and a member of the Rhode Island State House Legislative Counsel. Oscar came into the meeting with statistics and research he and his classmates had prepared, but was overwhelmed when Rhode Island General Law Chapter 31 Section 14-2 was opened in front of him. A member of the Rhode Island Bar explained to Oscar that while the idea for legislation his class had proposed was feasible, many steps needed to be taken for them to accomplish their goal. Like many citizens, Oscar had never witnessed the route a piece of legislation travels to become law. However, over the course of the semester, Oscar’s worked with the Providence City Council, Rhode Island state bureaucracy and the Rhode Island General Assembly in order to comprehensively address issues with traffic safety around schools. In doing so, they have created a better and safer environment for students.
At Civics Day in Fall 2012, Oscar’s class won the Change-Maker Award for creating a traffic safety zone around their school. Inspired by classmates who had been involved in traffic accidents walking to school, the class successfully installed crosswalks and a School Zone Speeding sign around their building. But as the semester ended, they didn’t feel that the project was finished. Students started meeting after school to discuss increased fines for cars speeding in a School Zone. Rep. Williams had visited the class before Civics Day and the group scheduled a meeting to discuss legislation modeled after laws in New York and Maine that would double the fine for speeding in a designated School Zone. The meeting concluded with planned legislative language that will hopefully become RI General Law 31-14-2(C). Over the course of the semester, Oscar’s class worked with several key stakeholders and decision-makers to comprehensively address traffic safety around schools, creating a better and safer environment for students. Oscar even secured an internship with Rep. Williams in her State House office!
Taking Action to Improve School Culture- Staten Island, NY
At Concord High School on Staten Island, students addressed a number of important issues that have collectively built a culture of civic engagement schoolwide. Having participated in Generation Citizen since 2011, leading change is now simply woven into the fabric of their community. The school has addressed themes of educational opportunity and mentorship, both between and among college students at Wagner, local businesses, Concord students, and local middle schoolers. This idea of building a pipeline of leaders and mentors is in alignment with GC’s mission to motivate and encourage young people for long-term citizenship.
In Fall 2011, Concord students identified a lack of knowledge around gaining employment and teen professional development opportunities. Frustrated by their inability to prepare for the future, the class succeeded in bringing a representative of the Wagner College Career Office into class to lead resume and interview workshops. The students also contacted local businesses to promote job advertisement to youth. Ultimately, they created awebsite, currently live on the Concord High School homepage under “Career Path,” to share acquired knowledge with their peers. The following spring, students recognized a need to further develop academic and “life” skills in order to be successful up graduation. Building upon the relationship Concord had begun to build with nearby Wagner College, the class focused on creating a partnership in which Concord students could observe and participate in undergraduate classes and seek advice from enrolled Wagner students via an online forum. The class also organized a free SAT preparation class and created internship/work study programs with local businesses.
Most recently, a Concord class addressed a severe prescription drug abuse problem on Staten Island. Though the issue is broadly recognized in the community, it is not often discussed – especially in middle and high schools. The class , many of whom had been personally impacted by the issue, determined that the epidemic stems from a lack of education about its consequences. In collaboration with their Democracy Coaches from Wagner (who previously knew nothing about this widespread problem) they established a peer education program in which Concord students could lead awareness workshops at a nearby middle school to educate students on prescription drug abuse. The class continues to accept applications for peer educators and plans to meet with a Councilwoman to propose their project and secure funding. The class received the Most Effective Design of an Action Plan Award at Civics Day, which served as inspiration for the students (and no doubt, future classes at Concord) to continue implementing their plan.
Single-Stream Recycling- Boston, MA
In Spring 2012, GC student Nadia Issa made an appeal for increased recycling in schools at Generation Citizen’s Bostn Civics Day. Having noticed the lack of recycling options at Boston Arts Academy, Nadia and her classmates realized that, without a system that worked, fellow students would simply not recycle. Inspired by Nadia’s passion , well -researched plan, and data from her school, Civics Day guest Councilor Felix Arroyo filed a hearing order to launch single stream recycling – not only in Nadia’s school, but across the entire district ( Part 1: We Should Call it Nadia’s Law).
The hearing took place, and the Committee on Education supported a plan by BPS Facilities and the Center for Green Schools to launch a single-stream recycling initiative across 50 BPS schools, with the aim of expanding to all 125 BPS schools ( “Nadia’s Law”: Part 2). The Committee members applauded that Nadia and her classmates spoke up, and made a point of advocating for ongoing youth participation in the recycling initiative. In September 2012, BPS moved forward with the proposed initiative. Mayor Menino rang in the event with a special ceremony at Blackstone Elementary (The Launch:).
Teen Pregnancy- Providence, RI
A GC class at Roger Williams Middle School succeeded in causing real strides to bring sex education to a school that did not have the resources to offer standard health education at all. The students collected valuable data to prove that their peers could benefit from sex education. They participated in conversations with their school principal, the Rhode Island Commissioner of Education, Deborah Gist, and the education coordinator for Planned Parenthood to determine how to best educate their peers on health and sex – to ultimately prevent future pregnancies among young people not yet prepared to raise a child.
But speaking to decision-makers wasn’t enough for these motivated students. They also wanted to share what they had found about the challenges of young parenthood with all of their peers, to begin educating their classmates starting now. Thanks to these assemblies the students planned and conducted, the entire school community now has a stronger, more informed understanding of the impacts of teen pregnancy and parenthood on one’s education and overall life trajectory.