Two Project Citizen groups go to nationals

Freshmen first to achieve feat

Students+participate+in+last+day+of+school+activities+June+10.+Two+groups+from+park+go+to+the+Project+Citizen+National+Showcase.

Jaida Puentes

Students participate in last day of school activities June 10. Two groups from park go to the Project Citizen National Showcase.

Tobias Khabie

When freshman Jack Thompson found out his group had made it to nationals for the Project Citizen competition, he was excited to have an opportunity to make a difference in his community.

“At the beginning of this I thought this was just like a little assignment that we had to do, but then I realized we could do something bigger than that,” Thompson said. “This could actually change people’s lives.”

Thompson was a part of one of the two Project Citizen groups Park sent to nationals. The competition is a yearlong group projection in which students research and explore a public policy issue and develop solutions or alternative policies. According to teacher Kara Cisco, who guided students through the competition, each state sends two student groups to the national competition — Park clinched both spots. Cisco, who guided students through the competition, said this is the first time Park has sent one group to nationals, let alone two.

It’s great that we can fix it in our own school and be able to see the changes there at the school. I’m impressed that we actually made this happen.”

— Nolen Heinrichs

“They did such an incredible job with this.” Cisco said. “I’m so proud of them, obviously, and the fact that they did all this asynchronously, some of these students have never ever been in person.”

According to freshman Nolen Heinrichs, due to being online for a majority of the year, there were some hiccups with communication, but for the most part he felt his team did an adequate job of working together.

“There were times where the online format for this specific project, which does require communication between people, sort of hurt some things we did,” Heinrichs said. “For the most part, we’re pretty good saying, ‘oh, so and so you do this’ and I think even with the online format we were still able to figure out a good way to (communicate).”

In order to capitalize off his trip to nationals, Thompson said he is pushing to make his topic, racially disproportionate disciplinary actions in schools, into an actual policy.

“I’m going to try my hardest to actually get this into an actual policy,” Thompson said. “I just want to try my hardest (to) make sure it can happen and support anyone else who’s (working on) any other policy.”

According to Heinrichs, who is in the same group as Thompson, Superintendent Osei invited them to work with Park to address the racial disparity in disciplinary actions. 

“It’s great that we can fix it in our own school and be able to see the changes there at the school. I’m impressed that we actually made this happen,” Heinrichs said.

Cisco credits the students’ success to their ability to work with each other.

“I’m just so amazed at everything they’ve done,” Cisco said. “It’s just amazing the amount of synergy that you can develop with a group of kids.”