Each year, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA) sponsors a student video contest. This year, they held the “Democracy Challenge” Student Video Contest. The league asked high school students in Massachusetts to create 30-second videos answering the question “What did you learn about our democracy in 2020?” And what a year for our democracy!
When Dr. Hannah Kimberley suggested students in both her Civics and History classes to participate in a video contest, students jumped at the challenge!
A few topics that were studied in Civics (co-taught by Mr. McLean and Dr. Kimberley) and American History (taught by Dr. Kimberley) were racial justice and the right to protest; the process for conducting a presidential election (e.g. primaries, voting rules, advertising, social media, electoral college); and gerrymandering and voting rights.
No matter where we were, we were bombarded with headlines, news segments and notifications about politics in 2020. The influx of information overflowed into our daily lives and at times felt too overwhelming to take in. It was a tumultuous time that took us to the edge. In the end, it seemed that all we were united on was what divided us.
Two students were particularly excited and knew exactly what their video entries would focus on–America’s desperate need for unity.
Julia titled her entry, “Stand Up” and won third place in the contest! Watch her video below:
Julia drew and animated the entire video herself, a task she takes great enjoyment in! When thinking about what she would say, Julia reflected on unity:
“There has been and is so much division in our country. When we stop and think about everything that has happened, we need to focus on what unites us!”
But how do we stop and focus in an age of constant information and notifications? Julia has a suggestion for that:
“Social media has definitely had a hand in making us even more divided. It’s important to take time to not get so wrapped up in the chaos of social media and find a safe place to distance yourself from the noise. Focus on what you think!”
Caitlin’s video entry is titled, “Democracy Will Persist” which is the first-place winner of the “Democracy Challenge” contest. Watch the video below:
As soon as her Civics class was assigned this project, Caitlin felt the words for her poem immediately enter her brain and spill onto a page:“I wrote the poem in 5 minutes!” she exclaimed.
Thirty seconds is an extremely short amount of time to explain what democracy means to you, especially in our modern world. But Caitlin rose to her challenge and knew that poetry, a literary tool often used to convey big concepts in a few words, would be the best direction to take.
“A lot of us watched our leaders fail in 2020,” she reflects. “When the leaders fail, it’s the citizens who are the ones to take their stand! Most of the time it feels as though the people in power are holding our democracy up, but it’s actually the people. We fail ourselves if we don’t stand up for our rights!”
For Julia and Caitlin, they remain cautiously optimistic about the future of American democracy. Both mentioned that there is hope in shifting our perspectives from division to unity. But there is still a long journey ahead.
“Democracy is built so everyone has a voice that can be heard,” says Caitlin. “But when you’re constantly shouting over one another, you can’t hear each other. It’s so important to listen to every voice, not just the ones you agree with.”
Dr. Kimberley, Mr. McLean, and all us here at APH are proud of Julia and Caitlin for this achievement! From what we have watched in these videos to their observations on the future of our nation, we are getting just a taste of how powerful these student voices can become. With excited anticipation, we hear their calls for change and watch as they take action to make change happen!