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Students propose public policy

February 06, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - Homelessness, old school lockers, teen pregnancy, obesity and underage drinking were some of the issues addressed Friday by local middle school students as part of the Project Citizen Showcase.

Students had to assess needs in their communities, think of ways to address the problem and propose a public policy to address the issue, said Marcie Taylor-Thoma, state coordinator for social studies for the Maryland Department of Education.

All of the seventh-grade social studies classes in the county created a project and the best class from each school went to Hagerstown Community College Friday for a countywide competition.

Students presented their projects to judges, all local civic leaders.

The judges determined Boonsboro Middle School students had the best understanding of public policy and will represent the area at the state competition the first week of May, said Gene Ebersole, coordinator of the Project Citizen Showcase for the 6th Congressional District.

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The Boonsboro students addressed a variety of academic courses offered, according to the Project Citizen program.

At Hancock Middle School, students are concerned about the 41-year-old lockers in which they are supposed to stash their stuff.

The problem: The old, rusted lockers are too small, some of the locks don't work and people accidentally bang their heads on the metal.

The students' action plan: Contact the Board of Education and principal about the problem, and hold bake sales and car washes to raise money.

When asked by Board of Education member Ruth Anne Callaham whether a new locker policy should be implemented countywide, 12-year-old Austin Edgerton said he didn't think so.

The students surveyed the Hancock school's custodial staff and found out the lockers were 41 years old, older than lockers at all of the other middle schools in the county, he said.

When asked by the judges, almost all of the students raised their hands to indicate they had older family members who also had attended the school and used the same lockers.

Callaham suggested the students attend the next Board of Education meeting and discuss the issue during the time allotted for public comments.

The class spent between two and three weeks on the project, doing research and writing letters, 13-year-old Leah Funk said. Leah said she liked the idea of speaking at a Board of Education meeting.

"I learned how to step up on problems in our community," she said.

At Smithsburg Middle School, the students not only identified a problem and proposed a solution, they carried out their plan.

Since 1995, Smithsburg students have been raising money for local organizations as part of the school system's service-learning requirement, Alexis Moore and Chloe Cupernall told the judges. This year, students identified the Smithsburg Area Food Bank as an organization in need of help and planned a walk-a-thon, which raised $1,591. A truckload of food also was donated, said Larry Myers, a seventh-grade social studies teacher.

"Other schools say how they're going to deal with a problem," Alexis said. "We actually did it."

During the question-and-answer session with the judges, the students unanimously said they liked service-learning. One student said it "feels good to help in the community."

By Kevin G. GIlbert/Staff Photographer

Hancock Middle School students listen to judges after their presentation in the Project Citizen Showcase Friday at Hagerstown Community College. Students pictured are, from left, Logan Manning, Taylor Lipinski, Sarah Mann, Brittany Shoemaker, Rachel Haines, Kristen Shoemaker and Hannah Bishop.

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