Civic Service Summit at Scout Island
In the park-like setting of Scout Island Outdoor Education Center, 6 teams of 10 students struggled with leadership challenges that seemed impossible. They had to work together, communicate clearly, resolve conflicts and implement potential solutions, learning from their mistakes. These experiences give student leaders confidence to address real problems in their community.
The Middle School Democracy Program in Fresno County guides students to learn democratic principles, American values and the skills to analyze and create solutions for complex problems in their community, in preparation to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. The goal is to revitalize civic education in 3 middle schools (Sutter Middle School, Baird Middle School, and Kepler Neighborhood School) and engage community mentors and parents to help students practice civic character and democratic citizenship. These schools will model and institutionalize proven civic learning practices. 500 students in 18 classes will choose a community problem and implement a Civic Service project to help solve it.
The Civic Service Summit on October 20 was organized to bring 60 student leaders from the 3 participating schools to learn and practice leadership skills, dialogue about civic values and democratic participation, and plan for program implementation at their schools. The staff of the Fresno County office of Education Safe and Healthy Kids Department led students in ropes course challenges in the morning.
After lunch, a student from each team gave a description of their school. Lemuel Mariano, from the Youth Leadership Institute and manager of the Fresno City Youth Commission, spoke of the importance of youth voice and participating in democracy. Selena Farnesi, Fresno County Deputy District Attorney, told students that she went a similar leadership program when she was a student at Bullard HS. She said that student service projects really make a difference in the community and they prepare students to be civic leaders.
Students participated in a dialogue on current issues, civic values, a vision for our nation and community, and goals for service projects. After another group challenge activity, school teams met to plan goals and what to share with their classes back at school.
The Middle School Democracy Program is organized by the Fresno County Civic Learning Partnership, including local business, legal, government and community leaders and educational agencies (Fresno County Office of Education, local school districts and Fresno State University). The purpose is to encourage K-12 schools to implement best practices in civic education and support schools to prepare all students to be career-ready, responsible, engaged citizens.