By Victoria Graziano
The everyday class routine can make some students drift into sleep land, but everyone is awake on Thursdays and Fridays in Jacqueline Manduley’s Government class. What makes these days different is Generation Citizen, a program that helps strengthen our understanding of the nation’s democracy by enabling young people to become engaged and effective citizens.
This non-profit organization is dedicated to making sure the youth is informed about issues and events going on around them. The program has only existed for three years, but it has been growing since it began. This year, GC attracted over 4,000 students in three cities and trained over 250 college mentors to work in 160 classrooms.
A representative of Generation Citizen, usually a college student, comes to a high school classroom to mentor students involved in the program. For Manduley’s second period class, the mentor is Krystal J. Rincon, a freshman at NYU.
“Generation Citizen is the perfect combination of my two favorite subjects – education and politics,” Rincon says. “The program will help students develop and implement a plan to take action on an important community concern. Students will become more involved in their government, and learn that not only is it possible to make a change, but it is necessary.”
Together with the class, Rincon picked out an issue that is important to the students, who came up with a long list of things that concern them, ranging from poverty in the world to lack of toilet paper in the school.
“Everyone should be happy with the issue the class will be working on, since we are going to spend a long time on it,” says Rincon.
She instructed the class to narrow the list down to local issues that they could solve. They were left with two choices to decide between: lack of supplies in school and unhealthy food for school lunch.
After a lengthy discussion, the students finally agreed to work on fixing the issue of the lack of supplies. Now, the class and their mentor, Rincon, are working together to find the best way to resolve this problem.
“Generation Citizen opened my eyes to see what issues affect my school every day,” says Artem Karapetyan ’13, a participant of the Generation Citizen program. “Everything from supplies and healthy food choices to transportation and discrimination has been discussed in a small way and I look forward to those lessons because they are something different than the norm. We would not get to discuss these issues in a regular government class.”
The approach to learning is definitely different because it encourages students to make things happen instead of just letting them read from a textbook.
Other students are not as optimistic as Karapetyan. They feel like the program just takes away from class time.
“Generation Citizen is a useless program that binds college students to teach high school students how to form and voice their useless opinions,” states Gordon Zheng ’13.
It’s clear that feelings about Generation Citizen are strong on both sides of the spectrum. Nevertheless, this is definitely something new for our school. Since the program hasn’t ended yet, the result is presently unknown.
For now, Brooklyn Tech is going to have to wait and see if Generation Citizen Participants will actually change things for the better in our school.