Solving Community Issues
Speak Up! Speak Out! provides venue for high school students to present research
Students from seven Texas high schools showcased their semester-long research on community problems and presented solutions to civic leaders on May 17 in Dallas.
Their presentations were part of the Speak Up! Speak Out! Civics Fair, organized by the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation at The University of Texas at Austin College of Communication. The Civics Fair is the Speak Up! Speak Out! program's culminating event, where students compete for cash prizes to implement their solutions.
A Speak Up! Speak Out! participant presents a solution to a civic leader.
William Kuykendall, a debate teacher at Trini Garza Early College High School, took his students to Speak Up! Speak Out! so that they could learn how to be a force for community change and progress.
"I believe that students need to understand that they can and must have an impact on and in their communities," Kuykendall said. "All the students were able to take a critical view of their own research and performance, and learn from it. Most importantly, they all learned to work as a team."
Students also gained valuable feedback from civic leaders, including:
- Judge Lena Levario – 204th Judicial District Court
- Karen R. Hughes – president and CEO of Vogel Alcove, a non-profit organization supporting homeless children
- Rita K. De Young – chief executive officer for Camp Fire USA Lone Star Council, a non-profit youth development agency
- Jan Sanders – community volunteer and citizenship educator
- Susan Hays – attorney in private practice
- Bud Kennedy – columnist at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"Speak Up! Speak Out! is one of the rare opportunities that students have to learn from adults other than their teachers and parents," said Deborah Wise, director of educational outreach for the Annette Strauss Institute. "At this event, students benefit tremendously from being heard and learning from community leaders outside of their inner circle."
Following is a list of schools that placed at the civics fair:
- First Place – R.L. Turner High School/Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District (Topic: Academic Plagiarism)
- Second Place – Collegiate High School at Corpus Christi Independent School District at Del Mar College (Topic: Help Out, Sleep Out Homelessness)
- Third Place – Trini Garza Early College High School/Dallas Independent School District (Topic: Environmental Clean-Up of the Wildlife Refuge at Mountain View College)
- Honorable Mention for Persuasive Speaking – Irving High School/Irving Independent School District (Topic: Obesity and Families in Poverty)
- Honorable Mention for Creative Expression – Garza Independence High School/Austin Independent School District (Topic: School Cafeteria Improvements)
Past topics include teen pregnancy, urban business development, water quality and bullying. The Speak Up! Speak Out! Civics Fair has a nine-year history in Texas.
Laura Byerley, (512) 471-2182