Connecting to Congress

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CHSD117: Government

Second semester seniors in Government class had the opportunity to speak to Brad Schneider, the United States Representative for Illinois’s 10th Congressional District. 

By Layla Kane, ACHS Class of 2024

Through a federal grant, Ohio State University, Brown University, and the University of California are trying to get students more civically involved. To engage students in politics, they created a curriculum and are hosting town hall meetings with many different high schools and their representative congressmen or women. 

Antioch Community High School was contacted about this program, and Social Studies teachers Scott Magnuson and Meghan McDonnell jumped at the opportunity. Replacing the regular civics project, select classes researched minimum wage issues and got the chance to ask Congressman Brad Schneider any and all questions surrounding that problem. 

“I think we were covering the same elements of the civics project but rather than sitting down having to write a letter to your representative, students now had an opportunity to ask questions directly to him [Schneider] and have a response in real-time,” Magnuson said. 

The meeting took place on April 2 in the ACHS auditorium. It was organized through Zoom and included Warren Township High School. Amy Lee from Ohio State University was the mediator, who asked a few set questions but also served as a voice for all the students asking questions through the live chat. The live chat was very active throughout the meeting, as students debated ideas back and forth between the two schools. 

Each school got a chance to ask Schneider two questions directly. Magnuson and McDonnell picked one question from their class, and that person read the question during the meeting. Magnuson combined two students’ questions, one of which was senior Isabelle Hughes. 

“I think that the idea of the project is good,” Hughes said. “I like that they are organizing meetings with our representatives, however, the online format was not the most beneficial.”

Looking back, Schneider made a few notable comments, including a blanket statement that no one working full-time should be living in poverty. 

Senior Kingsley Akalaonu and Hughes’s questions were combined, and they tried to address the national debt crisis. Schneider talked about how much the national debt has grown since he was young. He said we need to start reducing our deficits to keep the national debt from skyrocketing. 

Overall, this was a new experience for the school, teachers, and students. It is undecided whether students will have a town hall meeting next year or maybe have more classes involved. The educational goal is to push students to become more civically engaged in the world and to foster debates about how our government is or should be run.