We The People: Government & Civic Engagement

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(Morgantown, WV, November 3, 2017)  Middle school students at Morgantown Learning Academy (MLA) recently participated in two local events that gave them real-world experience on social justice issues and the workings of city government.

In October, the class attended the Morgantown City Council meeting, during which the Council unanimously approved a revised Non-Discrimination Ordinance (NDO) that includes protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status and familial status.  After learning about the ordinance during class, students prepared statements, and six of them spoke at the council meeting in support of the NDO.

“I support the ordinance because everyone deserves to be treated fairly and respectfully,” 7th-grader Avant Evans said.

The class also participated in a production of Defamation, an interactive diversity program hosted by the WVU College of Law and WVU Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  This program introduced the students to topics of discrimination and implicit biases that affect how and why individuals can interpret the same facts in a legal case very differently.

These activities are part of a year-long special topics class called “We The People: Government and Civic Engagement” in which students are learning about government on the local, state and federal level, as well as the vital role citizens play in the US democratic system.

In early November, the class traveled to Experience Learning at Spruce Knob where they learned about and practiced different types of leadership and communication styles while hiking, orienteering and caving.

“The MLA students were inspiring to work with because they demonstrated a balance between spontaneous silliness and really thoughtful insights. Although they were exposed to challenging circumstances (orienteering, caving, etc.), they prioritized support and seemed genuinely interested in finding ways to get along,” Experience Learning Instructor Ryan Stewart said.  Check out pictures from their adventure in the gallery below.

Later in the winter, they will have the opportunity to meet with elected officials in Charleston and observe the process of how a bill becomes a law during the legislative session.

Natalie Sal of Sal Sellaro Thorn Culpepper Legal Group, PLLC, and Dr. Leslie Tower, WVU School of Social Work, are lending their expertise and support to the class.

This special topics class is developed and taught by our Director Jen-Osha Buysse through a partnership between the Morgantown Learning Academy and Mountain SOL.

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