Students representing nearly a dozen schools from across the School District of Philadelphia gathered at the University of Pennsylvania’s Hall of Flags Tuesday to present civics projects on topics ranging from global warming to the gun violence plaguing the city. The projects were the culmination of work the high school seniors had done in their social science classes throughout the school year as part of the Student Voices Curriculum.
The grand prize of $2,000 was awarded to a group of students from Roxborough High School whose project on youth voter registration included posters, an interactive website and a line of “superhero” t-shirts. In first place was a group from the Girard Academic Music Program in Southwest Philadelphia and their project, “Positive Alternatives for Youth,” which focused on ways students might encourage one another to stay off the streets by engaging in positive activities in their schools and communities. Awards also were given for creativity, research, student impact, school and community impact, content and presentation. The cash prizes, which totaled $8,000, were donated to the winning schools for purposes – such as financing of civics-related school trips – to be determined by the awardees.
The annual Student Voices Civics Fair was created in 2003 to encourage civic engagement among high school students and reduce apathy toward the political process. Students begin work on their projects at the beginning of the school year by creating a list of community problems that matter most to them, then researching those issues and developing “action plans” to improve them.