Holley students among pilot group in NYS pursuing Seal of Civic Readiness

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 May 2023 at 12:44 pm

‘The goal is to have engaged young voters who will roll back their sleeves and help their communities.’

Photos by Tom Rivers: These Holley seniors are among a group from Holley pursuing the NYS Seal of Civic Readiness. They include, in front, from left: Julia Scroup, Lily Sprague, Ava Quincey and Rosie Emery. In back: Elise Quincey and Casey Onisk. Other students pursuing the Seal include Ryan Blodgett, Morgan Blosenhauer, Erin DeFrank, Emma Downey, Sarah Kelly, Shannon Kelly, Ryan Frank and Aidan McFadden. Last year in the debut of the program three students met the requirements for the Seal.

HOLLEY – A group of students at Holley are part of a new program in the state that seeks to develop citizen leaders.

Holley students have been working hard on the Seal of Civic Readiness that not only builds knowledge of the government, but pushes students to put their knowhow into action.

Holley students seeking the Seal have been writing letters to the editor, advocating for a sustainable environment, running an outreach program for veterans, and leading an awareness walk about acceptance of the LGTBQ community, among the many efforts to be leaders on issues of importance to them.

Holley last year was among the pilot school districts in the state to offer the Seal of Civic Readiness. There were only 50 school districts in the state in the pilot program, and Holley and Elba were the only districts in the four-county GLOW region in the initial year of the program. The state wanted a cross-section of rural, suburban and city school districts to “test” the program in the beginning.

“The goal is to have engaged young voters who will roll back their sleeves and help their communities,” said Mike Crissman, a social studies teacher and department chairman at Holley.

He is among the team of teachers developing the curriculum for Holley students to meet the standards of the Seal, and also for a Senior Capstone Project. The students, in addition to their coursework and capstone project, also need to do at least 20 hours of an internship. They need to keep up on current events and are quizzed weekly on what’s happening in the country.

Students who meet all the criteria for the Seal of Civic Readiness have that distinction noted on their high school diplomas. It also gives them added skills and knowledge to be citizen leaders, and likely will help them stand out in the college admission process, said Nick D’Amuro, Holley social studies teacher.

The state debuted the program last year and pilot districts learned from each other on the strengths of the program and areas that need improvement. Three Holley students completed the program last year: Thomas Dobri, Aiyana Galanti and Breanna Girangaya.

They needed to demonstrate time-management skills, assess sources of information, utilize critical thinking and media literacy, and take civic action in their own community.

These Holley teachers are working with students to earn the Seal of Civic Readiness. From left include Nick D’Amuro, social studies teacher; Mike Crissman, social studies teacher and department chairman; and Kayla Thrower, U.S. history and Participation in Government teacher.

The districts have flexibility in shaping the program and don’t have to follow the same blueprint.

This year there are 14 Holley students in the program: Ryan Blodgett, Morgan Blosenhauer, Erin DeFrank, Emma Downey, Rosie Emery, Sarah Kelly, Shannon Kelly, Ryan Frank, Aidan McFadden, Casey Onisk, Ava Quincey, Elise Quincey, Julia Scroup and Lily Sprague.

The students have done extra work in their Participation in Government/economics classes. Their research papers are longer, for example.

A key part of the Seal is the Senior Capstone project and a presentation that must be 10 to 15 minutes about that project. It is a chance for the students to delve deeper into a topic that interests them, D’Amuro said.

Lily Sprague, for example, has organized a walk-in time at the Clarkson Town Hall on Tuesdays from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. when veterans can learn about and be connected to services in the community. (D’Amuro serves as a member of the Clarkson Town Board.)

Casey Onick organized a “Day of Silence” walk on April 14 around the junior-senior high school campus. There were signs of people killed around the country who were targeted for being gay or transgender. Onick, who is president of the Gay Straight Alliance at the school, wanted to send a message that “transphobia kills” and “homophobia kills.”

Onick said the students seeking the Seal haven’t been shy about “stirring the pot” with controversial issues.

“Some people can’t handle having their views challenged,” she said.

She would like to see more awareness about LGTBQ issues in the schools “to minimize hate.”

Another student, Rosie Emery, investigated whether social media has been positive or negative for the LGTBQ community. She sees social media as helping to connect people who may feel alone or ostracized, but the social media messages also can direct hostility to those who are gay or transgender.

Some of the students have written letters to the editor that have been posted on the Orleans Hub about gun control, including support for having armed security in schools while another opposed teachers having guns. A student advocated for more resources devoted to root causes of kids being in foster care. Another said pharmaceutical companies shouldn’t be able to use propaganda with TV ads in promoting drugs.

Elise Quincey spent time at a local manufacturing plant to talk with company leaders about whether they feel the country is moving fast enough to stem the impacts of climate change. She also interviewed a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology about the issue.

Quincey said the company and the RIT professor are concerned there isn’t enough willpower among citizens and elected officials right now to make the needed changes to slow the impacts of climate change. She wants to study sustainability and political science in college.

“It’s definitely made me more engaged in the community,” Elise said about working on the Seal of Civic Readiness. “

Her twin sister Ava Quincey polled teachers in grades 4 to 6 for their opinions about technology in classrooms, including student use of computers, iPads and robots. Quincey also did an internship with a fifth grade classroom from November to January. She is planning to attend Geneseo as an education major.

Crissman, the Holley department leader, expects to see the state mandate that all 700-plus districts offer the Seal for students. He sees students with more confidence, who are ready to step out and advocate on issues of importance to them.

Kayla Thrower, a Holley teacher, said she is impressed with the students’ civic knowledge and civic participation.

“All of the Seal kids are taking it to the next level,” she said.