Report on Traverse City High School Project
Hagerty Center, Thursday April 16, 2019
On Thursday, April 16, 2019, I and a group of four other members of Indivisible TC and the GT Dems, acted as facilitators for groups of students participating in Traverse City Central High School’s Senior Project. Sean Jones, one of the Faculty Advisors for the Project, spoke to our group explaining that the project was begun about ten years ago to answer student questions: "What do we want to come away with by the time we graduate?” "What does it mean to be educated?"
Sean explained that students often think reading, writing, and math skills are all that are necessary. He said the Project hopes to teach critical thinking skills, the ability to synthesize research, and above all, a responsibility to move the needle closer to creating a better world. Students participating in the Project identify something they deem unjust, or a social issue that they care greatly about such as student debt, health care, funding education, etc. Students then use their in-depth research to craft solutions to their problem by making the presentations to adult volunteer facilitators like ourselves who attempted to offer support, make referrals, and suggest ways to implement.
Ted Iorio, who was one of the facilitators from ITC, had this to say of his experience listening and working with the students in his group: “What a joy to work with young adults from TCAPS. It’s too bad more people couldn't have participated. It would have resulted in an affirmation of the necessity of supporting public education. My group of young adults worked on a host of issues that covered a broad range: physician assisted suicide; animal cruelty; regulation of food additives; prostitution and slave labor; college athletics and money. The kids were well versed in all their topics. I left with a wealth of knowledge. I would suggest Betsy DeVos take the time to embrace the kids who attend public schools. As side note, hats off to the teachers who can be proud of the job they are doing with their students.”
I could not agree more with Ted. The students in my group addressed the problems of homelessness, parenting skills, minor incarceration as adults, and student depression. I was very impressed with the level of research the students had already done, the way they engaged in discussion around their issues interacting with each other, and their willingness to embrace the recommendations and referrals that I made that I thought might steer them into a productive implementation process. The fact is, addressing parenting skills and student depression issues, increased funding for faculty and professional counselors is essential in solving these problems high school students struggle with on an ongoing basis. It is imperative that funding for public schools be increased.
Dave Nichols, who participated said, “I did not realize high school students could become so engaged in politics. I think TC Central should be commended for having this program.” And Lynne VanNess said, “My chief takeaway from the experience is that I can't wait to do it again! If I am in one piece, I'll continue to volunteer. The kids were dynamic, well-prepared, and generally wonderful. I can't say enough good things about them!”
These teachers and students are light years ahead of where I was at their age. Of course, kids today face problems we could not have anticipated back then. When next year rolls around and you have an opportunity to get involved in the Senior Project, please embrace it. You will be enriched beyond your expectations for your efforts.