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Civic Engagement Projects take shape at Bitney Prep High School

Submitted to The Union

Tori Newman, Bitney Prep High School’s new Social Studies Teacher, has made it her mission to have all of Bitney’s seniors registered to vote for this year’s upcoming elections. “It’s important, more than ever, for kids to be civically engaged,” says Newman. “We see from studies that even students who have had a comprehensive government class in high school still don’t know how to engage civically with their community. Registering to vote is one of the first steps students can take, but, oftentimes, registering is not high on high school students’ lists.”

When Newman found out from one of her colleagues that since 2014 Californians have been able to preregister starting at age 16, which then automatically registers them when they turn 18, she saw this as an opportunity to make sure all of the students in her Government class got registered.

“We have candidates currently running for office who are talking about automatic voter registration for all Americans,” cites Newman. “Until that happens, this is the next best step.”

Newman, a first-year teacher, graduated from Nevada Union High School in 2015 and received her teaching credential from UC Davis where she is currently enrolled in their Master’s of Education program. She cites Molly Starr, her government teacher at NU, for helping her become more civic-minded. “Molly always prompted us to get involved,” Newman says. “And I wanted to continue this legacy.” Newman is going one step further than just getting all of her seniors registered, though, she’s asking them to be activists.

In Newman’s class, all of Bitney’s seniors are expected to participate in a Civic Engagement Project where they are to identify a particular problem or issue that is important to them and actually go about trying to solve it. Of it, Newman says, “I want to not only teach students about how to navigate local government but also show students that their voice does matter. I’m really happy that this fits perfectly into the educational philosophy of Bitney Prep.”

Bitney Prep is a small charter High School located in the Brunswick Basin area of Grass Valley. Originally chartered over 20 years ago, Bitney started out as a college prep academy but has shifted focus in the last 5 years as part of the Big Picture Learning Network.

Bitney’s 90 or so students spend all day, every Wednesday, at an internship of their choice. Through this program, they learn from local business professionals and discover which career path may be right for them. Bitney has student interns all over the county, at local veterinarian hospitals, radio stations, artist studios, newspapers, automotive repair shops, elementary schools, and other small businesses of every shape and size.

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