The Examiner

P’ville Students Seek Conversation Despite Political Differences

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Left to right, Pleasantville Middle School students Ellie Pettus, Benjamin Hahn and Noah Solomon, the winners of the school’s inaugural civic awareness and engagement contest.

During a time of protest, discouragement and heavy debate, seventh- and eighth-grade students at Pleasantville Middle School participated in the school’s first civic awareness and engagement contest.

Pleasantville graduate Brian Hawthorne, director of communications and development at the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation, sponsored the inaugural competition. Students were encouraged to write a paper on how to contribute to productive bipartisan conversation and suggest ways for opposing opinions to communicate in a constructive and respectful way.

Hawthorne said after speaking with eighth-graders in February and seeing how interested they were in the election he collaborated with social studies teacher Laura Drysdale to establish the contest.

“We wanted to talk about how to get young people involved and to develop some skills that might help support more civic engagement among our young people and ultimately our adults,” Hawthorne said. “These are not issues that are unique to the kids of today. It’s important to be able to invest in them now so they’re better equipped for the future.”

With 25 submissions, seventh-grader Ellie Pettus and eighth-grade co-authors Noah Solomon and Benjamin Hahn were the winners.

“I was very impressed,” Hawthorne said. “I was amazed at the way that they put their ideas together, but also where the ideas came from and what they were looking for was very meaningful and very motivating.”

Pettus said her paper focused on remaking foreign exchange student programs and creating a website called “True Talk,” where students around the world can discuss political topics and talk about their different points of view.

Solomon and Hahn sought better ways to communicate through a step-by-step process that includes compromising on a common goal to ensure a more productive conversation.

“People have ruined relationships over their beliefs. We thought if we change the way we talk all together that our opinions can be separate from our relationships,” Hahn said. “We are all good people who care about the same things in a sense, so why should that be ruining our relationships.”





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