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Students 'Do Democracy' by proposing solutions to tough topics

12th annual Doing Democracy Day connects students with local leaders

The three groups of finalists for the 12th annual Doing Democracy Day tackled topics related to homelessness, social-emotional health and school resource officers.

The presentations by the student groups on Thursday at the Longmont Museum were the culmination of a day’s work teaching students to collaborate and prepare solutions to local issues. The event brought 80 government students from across the St. Vrain Valley School District together with over 30 local leaders and community members. 

Students are placed into groups based on different local issues.

“Through Doing Democracy Day, our students realize their voice is important and they can make an impact on their community,” said Justelle Grandsaert, social studies teacher at Silver Creek High School and program coordinator for Doing Democracy Day. “They are able to talk with local leaders (about) issues facing our communities and they come up with viable solutions.”

In the morning, the students looked into their assigned issue by conducting online research and speaking with local leaders. They then presented their solutions to local leaders in the semi finals, with three teams going on to the finals.

One finalist group looked at homelessness in Longmont, proposing ways to solve it in the community and also looking at addressing student homelessness specifically. Another group asked if schools should have resource officers, which that team concluded were important assets to the district.

The group made up of high schoolers Gage Ciske, Leonie Richardson, Lilyana Sanchez, Maya Sol Rooney and Zach Zemlicka were named the winners for their proposed solutions to bring mindfulness skills to students.

After leading the audience through a short mindfulness exercise, the group outlined the rising suicide numbers in young people. Their proposed solution was to provide mindfulness and social-emotional tools to all students by dedicating either a few minutes, a lesson or even a whole class to the topic.

According to the team, this would give young people a healthy way to manage emotions without attaching it to the stigma that comes with mental health.

“Your slides were fantastic,” said Michelle Phelan, community liaison for the St. Vrain Valley School District Education Foundation, before naming the group the winners. “The exercise, we (judges) thought, was very good and very engaging.”