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WKU youth civic engagement project to be showcased Jan. 10 at White House

Public Achievement of Kentucky, a youth civic engagement program developed by the Institute for Citizenship & Social Responsibility at WKU, will be showcased as a national model during the launch of “For Democracy’s Future” Jan. 10 at the White House. (Highlights from the event will be streamed online from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (CST) at http://www.whitehouse.gov/live)

Representatives of three schools — WKU, Northern Arizona University and Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences — have been invited to participate in the launch event in Washington, D.C., as “champions of change” for civic education and engagement. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will address the gathering and several high-ranking officials are expected to attend – including First Lady Michelle Obama.

“We are so proud of this opportunity to showcase our emerging priority for civic responsibility at WKU,” President Gary Ransdell said. “This is not just a trend, it is a fundamental core element in our curriculum. We want our students to understand and embrace public problem solving and leadership in our community and communities across the globe. We are honored to profile our faculty and students in this White House ceremony.”

ICSR co-director Paul Markham will be speaking at the event about the ongoing Public Achievement partnership between WKU and area school systems. He will be accompanied by WKU students Bianca Brown, a senior English and Philosophy major from Berkeley, Calif.; Noelle Johnson, a junior Interdisciplinary Studies major from Danville; Lindsey Ardrey, a graduate student in Social Responsibility and Sustainable Communities from Bowling Green; and She’Rohn Draper, a graduate student in Public Administration from Toledo, Ohio.

WKU graduate Kyle Norris of Glasgow and Bowling Green High School student Christian Crues will attend the event as representatives of the Bowling Green Independent School District.

“Our program connects the university to K-12 students to address community problems. It is a deep form of civic education that builds the skills required for students to be successful now and in the future,” Markham said.

Brown and Johnson serve as Public Achievement coaches while Norris, a first-grade teacher at T.C. Cherry Elementary, serves as the school’s PA coordinator. Ardrey and Draper, who serve as PA coordinators, will be meeting with Department of Education officials to discuss the student-led nature of the program. Crues will participate in a discussion panel to share her experience as a PA student.

“Two primary goals of the Bowling Green Independent School system is to engage students and teach 21st century skills,” Superintendent Joe Tinius said. “The Public Achievement program allows our students to identify and work to solve problems or challenges in our community and teaches important skills such as, critical thinking, collaboration and communication. We are proud of the work of our students and teachers through the Public Achievement program, and hope to continue and expand this partnership with WKU.”

For Democracy’s Future, an alliance of education, civic and business groups in collaboration with the White House Office of Public Engagement and the Department of Education, is committed to reclaiming the civic mission of education. The initiative brings together two efforts – the American Commonwealth Partnership and Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, which prepared the report A Crucible Moment: Civic Learning and Democracy’s Future.

“The White House launch begins a catalytic year to take public engagement to another level of self-awareness, institutional transformation and policy change,” said Markham, who also serves as a senior advisor to the American Commonwealth Partnership. “The launch will be a public stage for recognizing public engagement and civic learning in higher education and K-12 education, and highlighting colleges and universities that have advanced civic learning, connections to communities, public scholarship, and civic agency.”

About WKU’s Public Achievement program

Public Achievement (PA) is a sustainable model of preparing young people to be engaged citizens in a democracy and addresses a variety of issues both at the individual student level and in the wider school and neighborhood setting. PA is designed to address the educational “achievement gap” by first tackling the “empowerment gap” within the young people of Kentucky’s communities.

According to national research, students are failing to gain the necessary skills and habits of critical thinking, complex reasoning, communication and collaborative work needed for active citizenship and individual and community success. PA focuses on teaching young people the skills and capacities to be effective citizens and leaders in a diverse world, where complex problems require innovative and relationship-based solutions.

The Public Achievement model features a deep form of civic education, which brings together students in primary, secondary, and higher education settings to work together to address “real world” problems.

Public Achievement of Kentucky is an ongoing effort between the Institute for Citizenship & Social Responsibility and area public school systems.

Markham said the ICSR continues to train PA coaches to work in more schools throughout Bowling Green and Warren County systems. The ICSR’s PA program is expected to spread statewide at universities through Summer Academies funded by GEAR UP Kentucky, which is administered by the Council on Postsecondary Education.

Contact: Paul Markham, (270) 745-3221 or paul.markham@wku.edu.

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