American Studies students campaign for change at MVHS

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One group presenting their campaign for a cooking class at MVHS

Nellie Brosnan

One group presenting their campaign for a cooking class at MVHS Photo by Nellie Brosnan
What would you change about MVHS? That is the question the American Studies students are asking themselves for their newest project. Every year, the American Studies class introduces two new projects and this year, the latest is the Lobbying for Change project.

In groups of five or six, the students became lobbyists in working on their own campaign projects to bring change they would like to see at school. The students were to find a cause on campus or at the district office whose needs were not being adequately met and then investigate that cause to see if it was authentic and something they wanted to fight for.

Groups had three weeks to prepare their campaigns before presenting them through posters, PowerPoint presentations, and website designs to their fellow classmates and administration.

During the presentation days of Oct. 20 to Oct. 25, selected administrators will attend each group’s presentation to decide whether or not they will take the ideas into consideration and apply them to the school.

“The kids are presenting to the class, but really they’re presenting to the administrators and the class is just witnessing it,” American Studies teacher Andrew Sturgill said. “They basically have to sell their idea to [the administrators] to try to make change for our school.”

In the past years, American Studies teachers have assigned similar projects, regarding presidential or local elections instead of the school’s campus and district. But this October, since there were no national elections, the American Studies teachers created the Lobbying for Change project.

“We wanted to keep something that the kids were engaging in at a local level,” Sturgill said. “We like to leave the American Studies projects kind of wide open in terms of topics so that the kids are invested in their own ideas instead of what we want them to do.”

Students reserved their topics by writing on the whiteboard in Room A112, and according to Sturgill, a response of ooh’s and aah’s echoed from the class, with the occasional comment, “That is a good one.” Topics range from class schedules to dance ticket prices to cafeteria food.

“Our topic is about getting a school bus for the field hockey team because they have to pay for their own gas and get themselves to practice everyday,” junior Owen Hardee said. “It’d be nice for other teams to be able to use it [the bus] too, like in the winter, soccer could use it if they have to practice somewhere else.”

One of the 11 topics chosen connected with school water fountains. Refresh MVHS, whose mission is to improve the school’s drinking fountains, is one of the American Studies student group’s project. According to junior Mimi Akaogi, our water fountains are “just plain gross” and they vary from shooting a mile-long stream of water to barely leaking drops of water that no one can sip. Because of this, Refresh MVHS is promoting cleaner drinking fountains for the health of students through YouTube videos, surveys, School Loop postings and blogs.

Refresh MVHS flyers Photo by Nellie Brosnan

Akaogi says her group was inspired to choose this topic because they drank a lot of water from the school water fountains and found the water to not be the cleanest so they were determined to do something about it.

“Not many kids get enough water these days and we want to encourage kids to drink more water,” she said.

The group has been promoting their cause by posting flyers around school and on their blog.

“I hope this project gets through to the administration,” Akaogi said. “Even though I don’t drink a ton of water, I still want to know that we have clean water at our school.”

According to Sturgill, the American Studies teachers try to make their projects relate to the students and the environment they live in. He believes that having them do a project like this, at the local high school level, helps them engage and become a piece of what is happening around them. The goal of the project is for it to actually mean something to the students that makes them want to do it to help someone else, not just for their teacher in order to get a grade.

“The project isn’t about getting an A or not,” Sturgill said. “It’s really a success when you actually make the change happen.”