Students Spend School Year Building Better Civic Future
By Csaba Sukosd | September 19, 2022
Year-round, the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center serves as a place for education about the state's judicial branch, government, and history. That includes the summer months when civic-minded teens learn how they can better their communities.
Central Ohio high school students participating in a new leadership program recently visited the Supreme Court of Ohio to learn more about the state's justice system and consider ways they can improve civic education in their schools and beyond.
"It has really made think more about my role in the community and the civic things that I do, whether that's voter engagement or other ways I can contribute to our democracy," said Aayush Kumar, a 16-year-old student Hilliard Bradley High School.
Kumar and his peers are taking part in the Civic Leaders Summer Program through Kids Voting Ohio. The pilot program is part of the education-based nonprofit's efforts to fill gaps in civic awareness about the three branches of government from third grade through high school. The goal is to prepare youth to be better informed not only as voters but also as initiators of change to address concerns in their communities.
"If it's hard for me to understand how government works with a political science degree, as a person who votes in every election and does this stuff professionally, I can't even imagine what it's like for an average adult or child," said Matina Bliss, Kids Voting Ohio's director.
Social progress is core to Bliss who has guided Kids Voting Ohio since 2020. She strives to provide students opportunities to enhance their knowledge about government and cultivate critical thinking skills so participants can be more aware of the needs of others in their community.
"It probably has to do with how I was raised," said Bliss referring to her parents who regularly volunteered for community projects on behalf of their church in suburban Atlanta. "Everything was very much focusing on the people around you."
During the summer program, Bliss works with students to identify a civic interest and determine ways participants can harness that curiosity through a service project they will develop during the upcoming school year. Certain examples include voter registration drives, town halls, and issue-based campaigns.
"If there's a problem out there, there's so much you can do about it, and there are so many different avenues you can take to solve it," said Bliss.
With each project also comes the opportunity to learn skills for the future. This year, Bliss is emphasizing networking, public speaking, and budgeting to equip each student with the tools to problem solve and expand awareness to help make things better for others.
"It's an understanding that you're not just improving the quality of life for yourself, but for the people around you," said Bliss.