With the goal of inspiring and engaging high school students in community decision making, Westchester Children’s Association (“WCA”) brought its program Project Engage to Sleepy Hollow High School this spring. Through a series of four workshops with students in two 12th grade Law classes, WCA instructors connected classroom lessons about how governments work to tangible, real-life ways every individual can lift up his or her voice. Among other things, their approach inspired students to think about issues of importance to them, find resources to deepen their understanding of those issues, and learn how to speak up to decision makers.
As an example, in one of the workshops, WCA brought in civic leaders to speak with the students in small groups, sharing a bit about the leaders’ role in the community and how the students can also participate in local affairs. The invited guests included TUFSD School Board Trustee Jennifer Liddy Green, Tarrytown Village Trustees Karen Brown and David Kim, Assemblyman Thomas J. Abinanti, State Senator Pete Harckham and the Director of Programs for Volunteer NY, Katie Pfeiffer. Some of the advice included Assemblyman Abinanti’s recommendation that the students educate themselves about government, serve their community and follow their passion. He also shared his perspective on the importance of caring about each other and continuing to develop interpersonal skills, particularly during this time when it is so easy to feel disconnected. Board of Education Trustee Green shared that the TUFSD school board is comprised of community members of all demographics and with all different work and professional backgrounds; she also explained how to reach out to the Board with concerns or questions.
Feedback from the students on how they plan to use the insights and information gained from the program included:
“Either on this town or wherever I end up, I will use what I’ve learned to know the situation in the town and what I can do to affect it.”
“I feel like I can take everything I learned and use it in my future now that I’m growing up and being introduced into the real world.”
“I plan on using the information and insights gained from these workshops by becoming more involved in my community by finding something I am passionate about and trying to make the world a better place, little by little. I will also try to vote to ensure that my voice counts and that everything is fair.”
“The information gathered in these workshops gave me a lot of insight on how local government works and on how to get involved.”
Kids’ Club is proud to have contributed funding to this valuable program.