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Speaker's message carries through the summer

July 28, 2011
By J.T. Whitehouse
At the end of the recent school year, the eighth-graders in the 21st Century Literacy class of Janet Kirns at Poland Middle School had a special guest. James Johnson, a Poland graduate and former aide to Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, spoke on the topic of civic duty. Kirns reported that several students have taken it to heart during the summer break.

"These kids need to be aware that they should be active in the community," Kirns said. "As pre-teens these young people must be aware of their responsibilities to their community."

The responsibilities Johnson spoke about involved everything from voting to volunteering. In his talk he highlighted that only 37 percent of eligible voters in Poland showed up at the polls in the May elections.

"When you have issues concerning your community, you not only have the right, but it is your duty to spend 10 minutes of your time to go to the polls and vote," Johnson told the students.

Johnson told the class a story about vice presidential candidate Joe Biden who noticed a lot of people were exited to shake hands with Democratic Party leaders, but when asked if they were registered to vote, many admitted they were not.

Another avenue of civic duty that Johson spoke about concerned civic duty participation.

"Take the opportunities available to you and help with problems in your community," he told the students.

He gave examples such as getting involved in student council, churches and charities. Johnson himself had served in student council at Poland and was student council president. Today, he works for Merrill Lynch financial services and is a political activist. He is also a board member for Habitat for Humanity.

Kirns said she was pleased to have Johnson's message of civic duty delivered to her class. She said some of the students took the message to heart and are spending their summer volunteering for various community charities.

"A few of the students are already active hrough their churches," Kirns said. "I beleivbe Mr. Johnson is a great role model and he seemed to make an impression on the students."

Kirns' 21st Century Literacy class replaces the former reading course that dealt mainly with fiction materials. The new course of instruction is conductive to the newest state standards for all Ohio schools. More collaborative learning, cross curriculum and technology are interwoven in the new course for the betterment of education. Having the students get involved in their community, on their own, shows that they have taken Johnson's talk seriously.


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