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The act of civic engagement

Civic engagement involves being a participatory citizen and promoting awareness of and resolving issues in one’s community. 

Students in Candice Halverson’s AP Government class at Brighton High School have been learning about what it means to be civically engaged.  Ms. Halverson challenged them to put their learning into practice through “Project Citizen.” 

The goal of Project Citizen is to encourage young people to learn how to become civically engaged through addressing a local policy problem and trying to persuade elected officials to adopt their proposed solution.

Ms. Halverson’s students had no problem identifying their Project Citizen challenge. Experiencing firsthand the safety hazard students had with traffic when they crossed the street on 8th Ave., they knew this was a problem they wanted to solve. 

They researched the number of cars that travel past 8th Ave. by Brighton High School, the number of students crossing the street, and how many near misses the students had with drivers not paying attention or driving over the speed limit in a school zone. 

Ultimately, the students decided the best solution to the problem would be having a flashing crosswalk sign with a pedestrian signal installed at the crosswalk in front of the school and determined that this was a municipal issue needing action by the Brighton City Council. 

Junior Katie Zirker had never presented in front of elected leaders and at first she felt nervous to do so. 

“After our presentation, the council members asked questions, applauded our professionalism, and agreed to help us accomplish our goals. It felt great to have them be supportive of our work despite us being high school students.” 

The director of the Department of Infrastructure for the City of Brighton met with the students to pick the exact design of the crossing beacon. The crossing sign is set to be installed in early 2022. 

“I am thrilled that the students experienced success and learned a lot about public policy in the process,” Halverson said. “Even if their proposal had been denied, hands-on learning experiences like this one are a great way to empower students.” 

Katie Zirker and her peers learned that despite their age they have experience and vantage points that should be considered. 

“The experience of being heard and treated as an adult taught me the importance of listening to others’ opinions as well, Zirker said. “Not only was my opinion heard, but many others in attendance had their voices heard as well. The city council lent an ear to our proposition and will help us address this safety issue all students at Brighton High have been facing.” 

The work of Ms. Halverson and her students addressing important issues is just one more #ReasontoBelieve. #IBelievein27JSchools