Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Julie Rich
Special to the Courier 

Ninth-annual Doing Democracy Day at Sunset

 

Photo by Julie Rich Several Sunset Middle School eighth graders participated in Doing Democracy Day. From left are Sadie Connolly, Tessa Everett, Mercer Stauch, Olivia Seiler, Isaac Robinson and Jacob Pennington.

Doing Democracy Day has been a St. Vrain Valley School District annual event for the past nine years. It’s a day when school board members, teachers, city council and students gather at the Longmont Civic Center to discuss and present issues within the community. This year, for the first time, select students from St. Vrain Middle Schools were invited to join with high school students to share their opinions and thoughts.

The event was started so students could be involved with topics that affect them and their community. Students who participate need to be critical thinkers, professional and able to work well within a group environment. The district supports the event not only by its attendance, but by providing a substitute teacher to cover the class of teachers.

This year, Longmont’s Public Safety Chief Mike Butler was the keynote speaker. He addressed school safety – students engaged immediately as Doing Democracy Day fell on the shoulders of the student walk out. Students were then broken into groups, given topics and began work. Issues ranged from the government’s role and local communities’ involvement in homelessness, tax on sugar, renewable energy, cheating and honor code, safety and emotional learning, graduation and career training.

Students talked one on one with local leaders, researched their topics and gathered for presentations to the judging panel. Students gave an eight-minute presentation, with two minutes of Q&A from the judges. The judges decided who moved into the next round.

Sunset Middle School eighth-grade participants – Jacob Pennington, Isaac Robinson, Tessa Everett, Sadie Connolly, Mercer Stauch and Olivia Seiler - raved about their experience. Highlights from the day includedinterviewing local leaders such as Longmont Mayor Brian Bagley, relevance of topics, invigorating pace of the day, the KGNU radio interview, collaborative group and hearing the issues presented by groups.

“What I liked most about Doing Democracy Day was that students were given a chance to really collaborate and think through solutions to problems they hear about daily,” one of the judges said. “Kids have far more exposure to news headlines and reports than in the past and the negativity can be very stressful and overwhelming. DDD was a learning opportunity that showed how communities CAN work together to improve the lives of everyone. I loved getting to watch it unfold and it was very hopeful and reassuring to see future leaders in action.”

Silver Creek High School teacher Justelle Grandsaert is part of the four-person team which works out all the planning details for Doing Democracy Day. Each year the members strive to create pertinent topics for students – sometimes making last minute adjustments to topics as their relevance changes. She enjoys seeing the students work together across the districts, but consistently through the years, her favorite part of the day is watching students engaging in conversation with community leaders.

“It’s a powerful day of civic engagement for our students, teachers and local leaders,” Grandsaert said. “We’re so proud of the 90 students who lent their voices and heartfelt opinions to this significant community event.”

 

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