Eastern, HCMS going to national meet

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By Cindy DiFazio

Staff writer/photographer

Students from two Henry County schools will face off against each other — and the rest of the state — for a chance to represent Kentucky at the We The People...Project Citizen national competition later this year.

Last Thursday, the 18-member Student Government Club from HCMS competed with two Eastern Elementary School fifth grade teams at Eastern.

“I think we have a great shot at winning the competition,” Jordan Lewellen, an HCMS eighth grader said.

The HCMS project, titled “Save Energy Now, You’ll Need It” was up against Eastern’s “Problems Posing Point Pleasant” and “Drennon Disaster: A Pothole Problem.”

The Project Citizen competition brings fifth through eighth graders from all over the U.S. together to demonstrate their knowledge of how public policy is formulated.

Groups present a portfolio in a simulated legislative hearing and are judged on:

• identifying a public policy problem in the community.

• gathering and evaluating information on the problem.

• examining and evaluating solutions.

• selecting or developing a proposed public policy.

• developing an action plan.

In 2008, the HCMS team earned a top rating at the national showcase in New Orleans. Their project, “Make Recycling a Habit,” centered on recycling plastic water bottles.

Social studies teacher Fran Nolin was honored with an award for Outstanding Law Education in conjunction with the project, but insisted the credit belonged to co-coordinator and fellow Social Studies teacher, Amy Treece and the students.

“I got recognized for their last year’s project,” she said. “Because of my kids’ work, they do all of it, I was able to get this award.”

During last week’s competition, Eastern’s teams went first.

Social Studies teacher Stephanie Wood said this contest is a first for her students.

“This is the first opportunity that our kids have had to be involved,” she said.

The Eastern Elementary team representing “Drennon Disaster: A Pothole Problem” proposed filling the potholes in the Drennon Road area.

“It’s a problem for anyone who uses the road,” Austin Craigmyle said, “whether it’s farmers, truckers or drivers.”

The team proposed sending letters to local government officials. “We think we can win support by telling them it will save lives,” Craigmyle said.

Glenn Manns, representing the School Violence Prevention Demonstration Project came over from Frankfort to judge the projects.

“How did you select this problem,?” he asked.

“We picked which could use the most work,” Craigmyle said. “The majority of people we polled said it was somewhat of a problem.”

The “Problems Posing Point Pleasant” team project was to lobby local government for cable barrier installation on a stretch of road known for automobile accidents.

Team members were enthusiastic about the project. “We want to go to state,” Nathan Roche said.

Dylan Willard said 67 percent of the people they polled said the lack of a barrier near a big dropoff was a serious problem. “If enough people complain, the problem will get fixed,” he said.

The team found that cable barriers are less expensive and safer than guard rails or concrete barriers.

Lucas Armstrong said they chose the barrier issue after considering several other issues including littering. “We decided on the barriers because there have been five accidents,” he said, “and a neighbor who lives near said they didn’t finish putting one (guard rail) up.”

“Did you call any city officials,” Manns asked.

“We called to invite them to come talk to us, but nobody came,” Roche said.

Manns asked if anyone learned something that was surprising.

“I learned stuff that was scary,” Armstrong said. “I didn’t know a guard rail could go right through you.”

Wood said participants in Project Citizen receive insight into the workings of local government. “They find out problems that exist and the impact they can have,” she said. “It helps them become informed, active participants in society. They have a voice.”

The HCMS group, once again, chose an environmental theme.

For “Save Energy Now, You’ll Need It,” the students focused on switching government buildings over to solar power.

Lewellen was passionate about the project. “It’s pretty much a really big deal,” he said. “It could save energy for the planet and save money.”

Sixth grader Shelby Treece said a concern was initial cost. “We found installing solar panels on a government building would be very expensive,” she said.

“If they buy now, though, it will pay for itself in a few years,” Lewellen said.

The group wrote letters to their congressman as well as the commissioner of education. They also are working with the high school’s Go Green Environmental Club and plan to set up a booth at the Henry County fair to educate teens about going green with solar energy.

“How many people are using alternative energy in Henry County?” Manns asked.

“Our high school has geothermal heating,” Treece said.

Team members also said they had researched Oldham County’s new library which has earned the highest government environmental rating for its innovative design.

Manns took 15 minutes to look over the teams’ portfolios and make his final decision.

“I chose the middle school based on their presentation,” he said, “but one of the fifth grade teams will be joining them at the district level.”

Manns chose the Problems Posing Point Pleasant to join HCMS in the statewide competition.

“This may have been their first experience presenting in front of people,” he said, “but the presentation had a lot of strong attributes.”

Wood said the team was elated Monday afternoon when they learned that they would get to go to the state competition. “They started cheering and hollering,” she said. “This is a really exciting thing for Eastern.”


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