My participation in the Civic Learning Week event has led me to witness the importance of civic engagement in my school community. I first found out about the Civic Learning Week event when my school, Democracy Prep, allowed scholars to go out and encourage adults in the community to go out and vote. After this experience, I felt like I should continue to encourage people to speak up in their communities. My initial interest with my school’s “ Get Out the Vote" event helped me grow to believe that our voices do matter in society and could lead to a greater impact. This newfound passion gave me the encouragement to continue to learn and try to make a change in my community. After learning and participating in the civic learning week event, I felt a massive shift in my perspective of civic education. This event has been one of the most transformational leadership experiences I have been involved in. I have always strived to make my school community a better place for my classmates and myself. The DemocracyReady NY Coalition and its civic education panels covered important topics that will help me transform my school into a more civically engaged environment. In this event, the Coalition described substantive ways students' voices can be centered in school matters and how we could make our schools more civically connected to our local communities.
This event was a very life-changing experience that had taken a lot of planning and time. Leading up to this event, I had the privilege to meet with a group of civically minded individuals such as myself to discuss and collaborate on how the event will proceed. Even though we were all assigned to different parts of the panel, we still took the time to help and support each other to perfect our work. In our meetings, we did a lot of research and idea-seeking in the hopes that we could make this event as life-changing to our community as it was for us. These meetings not only helped improve my sense of responsibility and consistency, but they also allowed me to have a different view of my community. It also allowed me the space and time to build meaningful relationships with amazing people that share the same idealism as me. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with these individuals since they strive to make a change in their community as I do for mine. They have inspired me to not give up on my path to make my school more civically engaged and proactive about those beliefs of mine.
In the panel, I was able to meet with a member of the Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, and other locally elected officials. In addition to that, we also met the young activist Chelsea Miller to discuss how young adults could be civically involved in their community and how they can make a powerful impact in society. Even though all interviewees discussed very important topics, the one that resonated with me the most was hearing from a Salamanca High School teacher, Justin Hubbard. In his interview with us, Hubbard discussed how his engagement with his school community began and his journey to supporting his school to be civically engaged. The discussion about the lack of civic engagement from Hubbard’s high school prompted me to think about the larger, overall issue relating to the lack of civic engagement in NYC schools, and what NYC schools were doing or not doing in regards to that. Hearing how Salamanca High School has been trying to get students to become more civically engaged with their local community led me to try and figure out ways that I could effectively implement those strategies in my own school and local community. By the end of the panel, I was fascinated by how complicated yet powerful civic education can be for young people like me, and what my locally elected leaders have been doing and could do for our communities.
This event changed my perspective and actions because before it, I rarely even knew what civic education was. Yet after the event and all the preparation to execute the panel, I was able to understand the influence we can have in our community despite being young in age. I now understand that I can use my voice to encourage my peers to be involved in our community and take the time to learn more about how to find solutions to our world's problems. I am excited to continue to learn and grow as a community member who will always care deeply about each and every person.