Holding signs proclaiming “Alcohol is Dangerous” and “We’re all the same on the inside,” Urbana Junior High eighth graders took part in a “Day of Civic Action” protest Friday.
The peaceful protest, a first for the school, is part of students’ American History and Social Studies classes, teacher Amanda Goodwin said. The goal was to show students ways to defend their constitutionally-granted rights in a non-violent way.
“It’s one of the most important units on the rights of citizens,” she said of the instruction. “We wanted to teach the proper way to protest, without violence.”
Students requested permission from Urbana City Council, Goodwin said, as a part of the process. They filled out forms, received formal approval from the city and had a police presence along the route to ensure safety. The protest traveled from the front of the junior high, down Washington Avenue to Wood Street, then down Boyce Street back to Carson Street and the school.
Goodwin and fellow teachers Sadie Steffan and Christa Baldwin selected four topics for students to choose from – women’s suffrage, the abolitionist movement, the labor movement and temperance. Students created protest signs for the march.
Student Stephanie Selvaggio said she chose the labor union because the thought of children working in factories stuck with her.
“It sounded the most important (topic) to me,” she said, adding the idea that children could be left homeless because they were too small to work the machines safely bothered her.
Fellow student Paige Martinez chose women’s suffrage for her topic.
“I felt it’s a really big deal,” she said. “I think the country would be a lot different if women didn’t have the right to vote. Even though the 19th Amendment to the Constitution prohibited sex discrimination in voting, there are still voting rights issues today, she said.
“It’s something I can relate to,” she said. “I think this is a great project to do.”
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.