Alabama Issues Forums: Citizen Wisdom in Anniston

Hunter Morgan is a Jean O’Connor-Snyder Intern with the David Mathews Center for Civic Life, a program coordinated by New College at the University of Alabama.  Hunter is a senior majoring in public administration in the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University.  CLA’s Community and Civic Engagement Initiative collaborates with the Mathews Center and New College to provide community-based learning experiences for students interested in democracy and civic life.  

On Tuesday, October 11th Carol Bush and the City of Anniston Parks and Recreation Department convened an issue forum on the high school dropout situation as part of Alabama Issues Forums, a program of the David Mathews Center for Civic Life.  Chris McCauley of the Mathews Center moderated the forum with assistance from college interns from the University of Montevallo and Auburn University.

The purpose of the forum was to think through various approaches to the issue of the high school dropout situation in Anniston and Calhoun County and decide on what should be done. Participants ranged from a 10 year old to retirees, which resulted in a diversity of perspectives and experiences.

Citizens wrestled with the complexity of the issue, since cycles of poverty and lack of educational success are difficult to break.  For example, one participant spoke of a former fourth-grade student who was certain that he would drop out because he could not read or write at grade level.

Technical education was a common thread that bound participants together. Many believed that there was not enough emphasis on equipping students not destined for a four-year undergraduate education, and they felt like communities should ensure those students have the same encouragement and opportunities to pursue technical trades and careers.

Representatives from service organizations shared how their programs help children and young adults who encounter challenges to education – pregnancy, truancy, home life – complete their education and become productive citizens.

Despite the complexity of the issue at hand, participants still held hope that citizens in Anniston and across Calhoun County can affect positive change, increase graduation rates, and help all children succeed.

To read about how other Alabamians are thinking about the issue, visit www.mathewscenter.org.

Hunter Morgan, Auburn University

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