By Maryann Makosiej (Courtesy of TapintoClark)
New York, NY - On October 15, six students from Arthur L. Johnson High School attended the first inaugural Civics Unplugged Forum Series Seminar at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College in New York City.
Although a simple Sunday once a month, Civics Unplugged delves into subject matter ranging from voting rights, trade, immigration, press, PACs, think tanks, campaign finance, to the merits of the system of checks and balances. As a partner organization to Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit international educational and professional development organization, it provides an opportunity for high school students from across New York and New Jersey to go beyond the classroom and engage with a diverse group of voices.
Bailey Latza, a senior, stated that “learning from people from such diverse walks of life was eye-opening”, while Kayla Dias, also a senior at ALJ, was intrigued by the questions poised by her peers. Each Civic Fellow walked away with a different perspective or idea, their beliefs challenged in a safe, academic setting to better understand the world around them.
The participants, starting the day being addressed by the founders, each attended three seminars intended to foster critical thinking and introduce rigor of dialogue. Each discussion, ranging from the importance of perspective and recognizing bias to the inflection of language in society, provided new avenues for each student to connect with peers across socioeconomic, cultural, religious, and political lines.
At lunch, each student had the opportunity to learn about the backgrounds and cultures of the other 71 participants from 11 different high schools across the tri-state area. This time, Brenner Gull stated, was his favorite because he had a chance to discover a snapshot of life from the five boroughs, as well as lend a snapshot of his own.
“Our students have a role in the civics process, and should be aware of how they use their voice to foster change within their communities,” said Frank Stebbins, the ALJ advisor for the Civics Unplugged Series. Indeed, Civics U extends far beyond 72 participants from 11 different high schools in the tri-state area. Simply, it is a call to action for a completely new school of thought to invite the youngest generation to the proverbial, political table.
The Civics Unplugged Series was created after Jeffrey Silverman, Chairman and Founder, when he noticed a lack of dialogue surrounding current events and civics within his children's’ schools. The presidential election was a pivotal point to him, stating that it “proved to my kids that democracy is an active process. When people become complacent, few people end up making a decision for many”.