Inspiring students to participate in civic life by working on issues important to them is how Generation Citizen civics education makes a difference.
“What can we do to show not only can they make change, but do it right here in their hometown?” said Timothy Osgood, a Methuen High School social studies teacher.
Osgood is piloting the Generation Citizen program with fellow social studies teacher Brendan Cripps, providing a curriculum which inspires civic participation when students work on issues they find to be important.
“We talk about politics at the national level, but where’s the appeal for a young person if they don’t see the connection?” Cripps said. “Where they can make change is the local level.”
There are four Methuen social studies classes where Generation Citizen is a pilot program; two are taught by Osgood and two by Cripps. Osgood’s classes focus on opioid abuse and teen mental illness and Cripps’ classes are focused on road infrastructure and mental health.
Massachusetts state Rep. Linda Dean Campbell is working with the organization and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to implement a civics requirement for all students who graduate from Massachusetts public schools. She is encouraged by the students’ level of involvement, and told them that the issues of mental illness and substance abuse are being addressed at the state level with budgeting and lawmaking.
The projects began right after the start of the school year, as students raised awareness and promoted solutions for their issues, by calling local officials and distributing petitions. Some of Cripps’ students who focus on mental heal even joined the Methuen Mental Health Parent and Student Advisory Council.
Osgood finds that students are empowered when they do leg work on civic matters and see results.