A Look Into This Year’s Generation Citizen Projects

On Thursday, May 10th, Malden High School, along with other schools from neighboring cities, gathered at the Massachusetts State House for Generation Citizen on Civics Day. This event is held annually and students that are willing to create change are able to present their ideas to people who are able to make change.

All of the freshmen history teachers work with each of their classes to come up with a topic or something that they would like to change in the community. The teachers then take time out of the school year to dedicate on working on the Generation Citizen projects. In class, the students come up with their root cause, goal, target(s), and action plan(s), which are some requirements from Generation Citizen. After this process is over, the students then create a poster that will be brought to Generation Citizen as a way to present the ideas of the students. Each class will get to decide who would be representing each class at Generation Citizen. Each class sends around three people to represent their class.

On Civics Day, all the students had to meet in the cafeteria so they would be able to take the bus to the Massachusetts State House. Once the students arrived, they walked through the metal detectors to ensure the safety of all in the building. The students from all of the schools in attendance then gather in a room where several awards were handed out and the President of the Massachusetts Senate got to be honored and give a speech. After the awards the students were instructed to leave and from here they would begin to prepare for when the judges came around.  

There were 4 rounds, that each lasted around 10 minutes each. The students were able to present all their ideas to the judges for around 7 minutes, after that the bell would ring and the judges were able to ask any questions they wanted for the remainder of the time. Out of the 4 rounds, one of the rounds was a free round where there were no judges. After the four rounds, all were gathered and the award ceremony began. Awards included the Grassroots Change Award and Action Award among several others. These awards were won by two classes from Malden High School.

One of the students who one the award Aaliyah Smith worked on a project about child abuse. Students in the city did not know whom to reach out to in the school and in the community to get help. Their goal was to “spread awareness about child abuse and help the victims by working with the school adjustment counselors to create a program where victims of child abuse feel safe to get help.” Their action plan consisted of many different things such as “setting up a meeting with school adjustment counselors to find out more about how Malden High handles child abuse, create a program (assembly, 24/7 hotline, etc, survey students and staff to get input on what the program should look like, set up meeting with principal, superintendent, Mayor, etc., to pitch [their] program, create a presentation with poster and slides to promote our ideas, reaching out to child abuse programs in the area to get more information and possibly have them help [them] with [their] program”.

Another student in attendance at the event was Ana Dorner. Her classes project was about gun violence. Their root cause was decided after they discovered that many mentally unstable people owned guns and when they found out through research that 13% of the causes of death in youth in 2015 was by guns. They chose their topic for the project after they put it to a vote and a selection of the top 5 issues in our community that they felt were considered “extremely important.” Dorner says “[they] worked on the project for about a month.” “During this time [they] researched and reached out to people like Representative Ultrino, Chief of Police Kevin Molis, Senator Lewis, organizations like Moms Demand Action and much more,” she says. She also adds saying “I can tell you one thing and that is that it was an amazing experience and it really made me get more interested in civics, taking action and it taught me that I have a voice just like every other student in this country.” Dorner concludes saying “she wants to be able to show our generation that we have a voice and that we CAN choose our future, if we get involved and develop interest on what is happening around us.”

There were also staff members that were at the event, one of them being Kurtis Scheer. He states that the “first benefits for students that attend Civics Day is that they have a location where they are able to show off all the work that they have been doing for the last several weeks in front of people that can create real change, that can be representatives, state representatives, state senators, the mayor, leaders of organizations that can create change, the benefits of going is being able to get an intimate setting where you can project, share and show what type of changes you believe are important in our community but also what young people think are important as well.”

His class went on three weeks to about a month of just Generation Citizen related activities and topics and contacts. Once they got to a certain point where they had done enough research,  done a lot of contact and they touched a lot of bases, they paused three or four weeks into their project to wait for responses back from the policy makers, elected officials, or any other people the students reached out to. Then, as people got back to them, they would pick up on Generation Citizen again. If they had a guest speaker come in, they would do a few days of preparation before that and they would switch back between the curriculum and Generation Citizen.

Damian Aufiero, another teacher from the history department, was unfortunately not able to attend this years Civics Day at the State House. He says that for students “[he] would say that going is a way to showcase all the hard work you’ve done, getting decision-makers to understand that there is an issue you care about, that you have been willing to learn about and understand, and for which you have been trying to find a solution.” He also states that “Generation Citizen is part of the class, however, it is an ongoing, continuous project. [They] began discussing issues and narrowing our focus in early February, and [their] goals and actions have been evolving in a natural way as [they] learn more about the issue and its causes.

To conclude the day at the State House the students were offered lunch from Subway and the students from Malden High School were asked to be guests and watch a full senate vote and deliberation and debate regarding an education bill after Civics Day was completed. Half of the students went back on the bus and 20 or so students stayed with Sheer and they sat in the gallery while State Senator Jason Lewis spoke about restructuring the way schools are funded.

He talked about how the way schools have been funded has not changed since 1993, so they are really behind on the way they finance and how they actually determine funding for the schools. As part of being guests and sitting and watching Senator Jason Lewis speak, he also acknowledges all the students from Malden High that were in attendance and that were still at the gallery to watch him speak. The students got to stand up and the entire senate applauded and acknowledged them for being there and being real change makers and showing a real vested interest in wanting to create change and caring about how schools are funded right now. The students not only got to see their projects in action, but they got to participate in real civics that day too.

Correction: In a previous version of the post, Kurtis Scheer’s last name was spelled “Sheer” instead of “Scheer”.

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