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Last night here at UCF, the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute, in collaboration with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida After School Zone and the Constitutional Rights Foundation, presented the 1st ever Civic Action Project showcase! It was, simply put, an amazing time that featured 4 groups of students talking with community members about issues that were important to them. Check out the agenda below:
CAP agenda

The presentations were powerful examples of how young people can engage with an issue and work to make a change in their communities, however one wishes to define that term ‘community’.

Each group of participants selected an issue and collaborated on researching, responding to, and presenting their issue, including proposed solutions. Check out the issues below. And keep in mind that all work around the issue was done BY THE STUDENTS. Facilitators played only a support role.

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During our time together, students walked the audience through their topic. This included why they chose the topic, how the topic has impacted their lives and communities, a proposed solution or solutions, and research relating to both the topic and the solution. They followed their presentation with a question and answer session that demonstrated their grasp of the issue and their ability to engage in civil conversations. Hearing young middle school students talking about the ‘validity of the survey’s sample size’ was just amazing. Check out some images below of students engaging with the audience and responding to questions.

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Students from Robinswood Middle School respond to a student question concerning their issue of cyberbullying

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Students from Meadow Woods Middle School argue for equity in elective course offerings in Orange County Middle Schools

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Students from Wolf Lake Middle School take questions from the audience, arguing that their research shows a potential positive impact from adding a homeroom, and that their survey shows a positive response!

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Students from Hunter’s Creek powerfully and passionately argue for improved access to and information on Orange County and OCPS parks for disabled children.

One of the most important purposes of this event, and of the Constitutional Rights Foundation’s Civic Action Project is to help students understand that they CAN have an impact and that they CAN make a difference if only they can make their voice heard. How wonderful it was then that Associate Superintendent for School Choice Services, Dr. Christopher Bernier, attended the showcase and made a concerted effort to meet with each group of young and passionate people. Indeed, Dr. Bernier, who has some jurisdiction over at least a couple of the issues students raised at this event, promised the kids at Meadow Woods that he would look into the concerns that they raised. Below, he sits with students and discusses their issue. And he spent time doing the same with every group. We are grateful for his attendance and participation, because it ensured that the students felt their voices were being heard!

It was, wonderfully, a successful first year of this pilot program. We are eager to continue the conversation and the work with our friends at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, and hopefully others, and see how we can make this even better and offer other students the opportunity to engage in the practice of civil conversations and lived civics.

One last thing. This effort could not have happened without the incredible and dedicated work of FJCC’s Action Civics Coordinator, Mr. Chris Spinale, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida’s Director of Middle School Programs, Mr. Kelvin Curry. Their dedication to this program and to the kids is incredible. So too do we owe a debt of thanks to the facilitators from each school: Mr. Tony Johnson and Ms. Valerie Hobbs (Hunter’s Creek), Ms. Saceta Valentine and Mr. Lonnie Smith (Robinswood), Ms. Terri Rawls, Ms. Chandrieka Palmer and Mr. Marcus Palmer (Wolf Lake), and Mr. Sean B. Sookdeo and Mr. Bernard D. Mitchell, Jr. (Meadow Woods). And of course the young people themselves, who did all of the work and engaged in the practice of civic life with such passion and dedication.

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