Macon County Youth Respond to the Civic Data Challenge

Twenty-four Macon County eleventh grade students are part of a mentoring program with Auburn University students and graduate assistant Raven Conwell.  The project is funded in part by the Appalachian Regional Commission, and the work these students do together revolves around workplace and college readiness.  

The National Conference on Citizenship has issued a “Civic Data Challenge,” a contest to see what local groups and individuals can do with raw statistical data related to civic health.  Our students are responding in a really impressive way, under the guidance of Mobile Studio artist Dan Neil, landscape architecture professor Jocelyn Zanzot, and some Auburn students who joined us last night.

On Friday of last week, students at Notasulga School made new paper from recycled paper, and Dan delivered the stack of 200+ sheets to Pleasant Grove Church last night. We held a little “walkaround the data,” where we formed a circle and read statistics from the Alabama Civic Health Index and the Kids Count Data for Macon County.  Here are a few of the statistics that caught our attention:

  • Alabamians who are a member of a group: 29.1%
  • Alabamians who have contacted or visited a public official: 6.4%
  • Alabamians who volunteer: 26.6%
  • Alabamians registered to vote in 2010: 65%
  • Alabamians who do favors for neighbors frequently: 21.1%
  • Graduation rate for Macon County in 2000 = 52.2%; in 2010 = 66.7%
  • Alabamians who work with neighbors to fix something or improve something in the community = 10.1%
  • Persons below the poverty level in Macon County = 27.4%
  • Macon County children in single-parent families = 64.5%
  • Macon County children in poverty = 45.2%

Students did not argue with any of the statistics, especially the local ones.  Two main thoughts came out of the discussion among students. First, they believe the stigma of being a “poor county” makes coming out of poverty all that more difficult.  Second, students suggested that people outside of the county are not fully aware of the situation within Macon County. “Macon County is forgotten,” one student said. Students are not satisfied with the Alabama Civic Health statistics, and they are ready to help increase overall health.

Jocelyn lead students to think about the landscape of Macon County, particularly the cities of Notasulga and Tuskegee, by drawing a map of all “places” that dot the landscape.  The finished posters will end up all throughout the map, and the exercise helps us think about spaces—human built and natural—and what these spaces mean for civic health.

Students divided into four teams, and Dan challenged students to think of a short message or slogan that could be on a poster that would use “Macon” as a verb. The groups reported out what they were thinking, and their ideas were impressive and right on target.  We envision four posters, all of which express a different statistic, three of which do so in a positive, meaningful way.  One poster, on recommendation from the group, will express the stark reality of children in poverty.  Our students hope that the posters will invite the public to examine the civic health of Macon County and Alabama.  The posters will add to the landscape of the county, bringing a message of hope and concern developed by Macon County’s young citizens.  Our next update will be something to see.


One response to “Macon County Youth Respond to the Civic Data Challenge

  1. Getting our youth involved in our communities, including feeling comfortable with meeting elected officials, writing letters to editor, and empowered to make a change will positively affect Notasulga and Macon County.
    Interesting to read about the stigma of living in a poor community.
    Keep up the good work.
    Ya all must be commended along with the twenty-four students.
    I am proud to call Notasulga home.

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