On Nov. 14, a peer mentoring class at Cedar Shoals High School presented service project proposals in a legislative forum, arguing for their efforts based on qualitative and quantitative research. The class is a unique endeavor developed and taught by Katie Baker Johnson, who is also a doctoral student in the College of Education's department of language and literacy education. The course trains emergent researchers and teachers to work collaboratively with youth. An Athens commissioner and community members attended the forum and voted for the top three projects that would receive funding.
The high school students received support from UGA graduate students in a youth and civic leadership course taught by College of Education associate professor Ruth Harman, and District 2 Commissioner and doctoral student in the department of language and literacy education, Mariah Parker. Local philanthropists Grady Thrasher and Kathy Prescott funded the project.
"Our approach in this combined teacher education and youth civic leadership program positions youth and future teachers as civic agents of change and artistic designers of new knowledge. We encourage youth and adults to iteratively and generatively engage with real-world issues and design innovative, equity-centered solutions to real-world problems," Harman said.
The three groups awarded funding are comprised of Club Counselors by Kylee Braswell, Lorelai Crook and Adetokunbo Ojo; J.A.M. by Josie Moore, Marshiyana Levy and Aveon Stokes; and Art for the Student Spirit by Eric Hixson. The research projects include the following:
Club Counselors' research focuses on the lack of information available about extracurricular activities for incoming freshman from Hilsman Middle School, a pipeline school for Cedar Shoals High School. Data show that participation in extracurricular activities increases student engagement, GPA and graduation rates. Through class presentations and planning a club fair, the group informs the middle school students of opportunities available in high school with hopes of increasing future club participation.
Studies show that symptoms of depression are more common in individuals with disabilities. These students are isolated from the rest of the student body, causing a social gap. J.A.M. seeks to close that gap and help students with disabilities grow communication skills through quality time and increasing class integration.
"The problem is our school doesn't have enough color expressed throughout the halls and classrooms," Hixson said. The young artist developed a concept that will boost learning progress and raise serotonin levels at Cedar Shoals High School through colorful murals that stimulate critical thinking. Hixson plans to paint three portraits in the school by March 2020.
A second forum will be open to the public on April 16, 2020, where the groups will report on the implementation of their research.