Suddenly, I don’t feel so anxious about the long-term future of the nation.
I’m in the second week now of a two-week volunteer morning gig with the Village Project summer camp at Elon. It’s a cliché to say I’ve learned as much from the 12 to 14 rising eighth and ninth-graders in our class as they have from me. And even though I’ve spent some time advising them not to write in clichés, I’ll do so anyway.
I’ve learned as much from them over the past seven days as they have from me – probably more. Make that definitely more.
There, I produced a cliche — and an accurate one.
I began this volunteering thing without much knowledge about what to expect. The Summer in the Village Camp, operated by Elon University’s Center for Access and Success. It’s part of an overarching effort called “The Village Project.” During the school year it’s an afternoon program that offers kids a place to go and continue learning after the school bell rings. Many, but not all, have some difficulty reading – or did have some problem in that area at one time. Some are from homes where English isn’t the primary language. Most in our group this summer are solid readers, decent writers, strong in mathematics and with an interest in current events.
Let’s double down on current events. They watch the news and pay attention.
Monday a look at maps of the United States from the Revolutionary War period sparked questions about voting and the Electoral College. They didn’t really understand the system for electing U.S. presidents and wanted to know more. So Marie Alston, a longtime educator with the Alamance-Burlington School System and Alamance Community College took up the teachable moment challenge, veered from our lesson plan about what future U.S. states were territories of Spain, France or England and addressed their questions. At the end of Monday’s session, she decided their Tuesday morning essay topic would be: “If you were elected president of the United States what would you do?” She also tasked the students with developing campaign slogans and identifying issues they would address.
The slogans the students came up with revealed an interesting and optimistic theme – especially when compared to the current political discourse in our country. Here are a few:
United makes us stronger.
Let’s keep going.
One nation, many cultures.
Together we are more.
We can do it
Change takes many
Together we can succeed.
The majority of the class wrote positive slogans that advanced the notion of working together as opposed to negative messages and bickering. Overall every slogan had a positive message. Obviously the students are appalled about the current state of politics and seem to understand what our current elected officials simply can’t – divided we all fail. The students also had impressive ideas about the key issues of our time. They mentioned health care and terrorism and public safety and the environment and immigration. They have an interest in hunger and homelessness. And you know what else they mentioned? Taxes.
I like these kids. Unfortunately, they’re still about five years away from being voters.
Hopefully we can make it until they get there.