Macon Citizens Camp, June 2-5, 2013

Summary by Dr. Mark Wilson, Director of Civic Learning Initiatives, College of Liberal Arts, Auburn University

IMG_9484From June 2-5, 2013, eighteen students from Macon County participated in Macon Citizens Camp, a four-day residential experience on the campus of Auburn University, funded in part by the Appalachian Regional Commission and coordinated by the Community and Civic Engagement Initiative in the College of Liberal Arts. The majority of the students, recruited from Booker T. Washington High School and Notasulga High School, will enter the tenth grade in the fall, so the camp became the perfect time to experience college life and develop skills related to becoming active and responsible citizens.

Students lived in Dixie Bibb Graves Hall under the supervision of AU Outreach camp counselors Moneisha Cunningham and Scott Neff, enjoying the freedom and responsibilities that accompany college dorm life. And they enjoyed homework as well, since their first assignment was to read the Declaration of Independence, Emancipation Proclamation, and an address on civic democracy by the late Dr. Charles Gomillion of Tuskegee.  Students had to write a brief speech beginning with the following statement: “I am _______, and I am a citizen of Macon County.  My community can count on me to . . . .”

IMG_9850Daytime counselors included recent AU graduates Blake Evans and Kadedra Smith, as well as AU junior Beth Givens, who has helped coordinate the mentoring work with other Macon County students over the past year.

During the day students participated in sessions and projects led by a variety of instructors from AU as well as from organizations around the state.  On Monday, Chris McCauley, executive director of the David Mathews Center for Civic Life, moderated a forum on bullying as part of the Center’s signature program Alabama Issues Forums, so students practiced the art of public deliberation on an issue of growing concern.  Bridge Builders Alabama director Stephen Woerner brought along his staff to lead team-building and leadership exercises with students, nearly all of whom will be eligible to apply to become a Bridge Builder next summer.

IMG_9529On Tuesday, AU theatre professor Daydrie Hague led students in a workshop for developing presentation skills, and students received an introduction to how actors prepare themselves for the stage. Public speaking can be frightening, but Daydrie helped students with some “tricks of the trade,” which led to some really fine presentations of their 100-word speeches.  After lunch, students hopped on Tiger Transit for a short bus ride to Pebble Hill, home of the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities.  We discussed the writings and art of 18th-century naturalist William Bartram, who came through Macon County during his journey through the South in the 1770s.  Students became naturalists for a day, thanks to the help of AU art professor Barb Bondy, who gave students a concise lesson in drawing.  Kay Stone of the AU Environmental Institute brought over some of her favorite critters, including three snakes, a turtle, a bearded dragon, and some salamanders.  We assigned students to draw a plant and animal and write about it in a way similar to how Bartram wrote about the natural environment in his journal.

IMG_9834On Wednesday, Team 360 of the Carey Center for Non-Profit Studies and Philanthropy led students in an interactive curriculum called Real Cents, Real Change.  Students practiced money management in teams, making real-life decisions about how to prioritize needs and use their wealth to make a difference.  A tour of Jordan-Hare stadium was a real treat for students, and we ended the day with evaluation and discussion at the top of Haley Center in the Eagle’s Nest.

We enjoyed working with each of the students, who are at the perfect age to begin thinking about college, work, and what it takes to be an active, responsible citizen. But the camp is just the beginning of the relationship, not the end, and we look forward to working with students at monthly meetings over the course of the next academic year.

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