AUSTIN, Texas—More than 200 Central Texas high school students will convene at The University of Texas at Austin to present their solutions for some of the biggest problems facing their communities, including prescription drug abuse, food safety, global warming, teen pregnancy and traffic.
Speak Up! Speak Out!, a civic education program designed to teach young people about their communities, takes place from 5:30 to 9 p.m., May 2 in the Sanchez Building on The University of Texas at Austin campus.
"We established Speak Up! Speak Out! to encourage students to take an interest in their communities and to discover the many ways they can make a difference," said Mary Dixson, associate director of the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation. "The distinguishing element of Speak Up! Speak Out! is that the students are responsible for setting the agenda and speaking up about the things that they deem to be most important.
"When given the opportunity to examine and solve community problems that are close to their hearts, students can be highly thoughtful and creative."
Using applied learning and teamwork, students from a variety of high school classes research their communities, identify a problem that interests and motivates them, and develop a project and proposal to present to their community. The semester-long project culminates in the Speak Up! Speak Out! civics fair, which brings together students, parents, political officials and community leaders.
The event features two components: a civics fair where student teams display their projects, which feature student creativity in the realms of photojournalism, music, Web site development, pamphlets and public service announcements, at solution stations; and a Speak Out! session where teams deliver oral presentations to a panel of judges. Judges this year will include members of local non-profits, businesses, academics and local political officials, including Austin Mayor Pro-Temp Betty Dunkerley. Students are judged on research, creativity, ability to implement and presentation style.
High school students from Austin (Akins, Crockett, Garza and Travis) and San Antonio (Highlands, Lanier and Sam Houston) will participate.
Established in 2003, Speak Up! Speak Out! is a co-curricular education program in which teachers use Speak Up! Speak Out! in the classroom side by side with other lesson plans to teach civic engagement, problem-solving and team work.
Speak Up! Speak Out! is an initiative of the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation and is funded by a grant from the Dorot Foundation of Providence, R.I. For more information, visit Speak Up! Speak Out! on the Web.