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September 28, 2013

Citizenship program discussed at Chamber meeting

A new citizenship program is launching in Cullman County schools this year, after being piloted in the city of Eufaula as part of a new push to teach students about community engagement and American history.

Arab native Patti Yancey, with the Liberty Learning Foundation, was the guest speaker Friday at the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Fourth Friday event. She gave a primer on the program, as well as announced that it will be launching in Cullman County this year.

“We were established in 2010 to act as a bridge between underfunded schools and those that are passionate donors who believe in teaching strong lessons of civic character,” she said. “We spent a year watching the program unfold in a school from start to finish [in Eufaula], so now we’re able to not only tell you about the mission — but share results of what’s happening.”

As the program evolved, now including everything from sing-alongs to classwork and team exercises, Yancey said her team tried to find a way to get modern students interested in history and citizenship.

“We realized we couldn’t just put teaching tools in teacher’s hands, we also had to be able to inspire these children and find a way to empower this iPad generation to connect the dots from what they’re hearing and learning and what they can do with it, forever,” she said. “We’ve taught children about citizenship before, but we we’re not teaching students what they’re going to do with this title. Everything sits on top of civic education, teaching about the nation’s history and where we came from.”

The program initially focused on students in K-5 grades, though a phased roll out is planned for students in middle and high schools.

“We want to create collaboration so these kids can see this as a signal of hope, so that if their home life may not be what they want it to be, they’ll know they still belong to a country and a community and can still be something different,” Yancey said. “It takes all of us to sustain it. We’re starting in the State of Alabama and Georgia,  before we go further across the nation with this. That’s our plan.”

The program is funded by sponsorships, with the first phase backed by Alabama Power.

Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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