Greencastle teens try to teach a lesson in civics

October 22, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

GREENCASTLE, PA. - Justine Greenwood and Katy Hagberg are not old enough to vote, but they recognize the importance of doing so.

"Young people need to be more aware of the topics that are going on in society," Justine said, "because we didn't always have the voting rights, especially women."

The pair signed up for a Greencastle-Antrim High School civics class not only because it is required, but also because they have an emerging, genuine interest in government.

"I took it because I don't know anything about government," Justine said.

Now, the girls have taken the lessons outside the classroom by meeting during lunch and after school to organize activities through the Learn and Serve America grant.


They joined with classmates to hold a voter registration drive at a late-September football game.

"We got 33 people to register to vote," Katy said. "We had a table, and when people registered to vote, we gave them a spirit towel."

They have plans to host school board members for an "organized discussion" about an issue facing teenagers. Meetings ahead of time were designed to prepare all parties for the event.

"There are six of us giving a presentation of what we're going to talk about," said Justine, who has been practicing writing press releases.

Their teacher, Ellen Kirkner, already has covered topics like the U.S. Constitution, legislative process and the Bill of Rights. Other topics were closer to home, helping the teenagers to identify their municipality and local leaders.

Justine, who celebrated her 16th birthday on Oct. 16, said she hopes the class prepares her for the citizenship process. She moved to the United States from England five years ago.

She and Katy shared frustration with some reaction to their voter registration drive, saying a few people were very negative and snappy about it.

"Some people really didn't want to take the time to register," said Katy, 17.

"What we're trying to do with this is to get younger people to realize they have a right to vote. ... The voting rate of young people is disappointing," she said.

Kirkner described the approximately 25 students in Katy and Justine's class as a very enthusiastic group.

"I'm impressed they really follow through," Kirkner said. "Commitment is important to me because teenagers are busy now."

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