KV Alaska presents Effective Citizenship Award
Two years ago the Kids Voting North Alaska Board of Directors, in an attempt to better highlight programs that promote civic responsibility in Fairbanks, Alaska, created the Effective Citizenship Award. This honor, which is awarded during the Fairbanks History Day Fair ceremony, serves the dual purpose of raising awareness of the Kids Voting program while acknowledging the recipients’ understanding of the essential elements of our democratic society, a goal shared by both groups. The board provides a cash award to the best novice (grades 4-5), junior (grades 6-8), and best senior (grades 9-12) entry. To further encourage student participation, the Kids Voting Board also presents a cash award to the teacher who guided each of the winning students. This year the board received twice as many entries as the previous year.
In the novice division, winner Shahiba Bhattari, initially was unsure of what topic to research, but she knew she wanted to find out more about American history and her adopted country. One year and three months ago, she and her parents said good-bye to their native Nepal, and Shahiba started school at North Pole Elementary in North Pole, Alaska. When her teacher Mat Wade gave her the opportunity to choose any topic to research for her History Day project, she was inspired by the freedom afforded in the selection process. Initially, her research proceeded slowly until she discovered Susan B. Anthony. Shahiba was immediately drawn to Anthony’s confidence in the justness of women’s rights and her resulting demand for full equality. Shahiba’s exhibit, “Women’s Suffrage,” highlights Anthony’s groundbreaking efforts in initiating the long-enduring struggle for women’s enfranchisement.
In the junior division, Louieza Donellan and Marina Perez, best friends in Dwayne Eager’s 8th grade class at Ryan Middle School, chose to research the Women’s Movement. In choosing a topic, Louieza, who originally hails from the Philippines, and Marina, who was living previously in Puerto Rico, like Shahiba, wanted to learn more about their new home. In researching women’s history, the two friends were shocked to discover that at one time, women could not own property or have their own bank accounts. But, as edifying as studying about the women’s struggle for equality was, the greater lesson came as the two partners learned to work through disagreements and to accept each other’s views. Throughout this project, both students came to admire Susan B. Anthony’s courage and to understand the value of voting, a responsibility many Americans ignore or under value. As Marina emphatically stated during this interview, “I want to vote!”
At the high school level, Sara Nichols, a 15 year old sophomore in Sean Genson’s World History class at West Valley High School, captured the Senior Division’s Effective Citizenship award with her website that examines the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Initially, Sara came to choose her topic after randomly pulling a book off a cart supplied by the West Valley librarian Janet Madsen, who has played an integral role in assisting students during the research phase of their History Day projects. Once engaged, Sara’s research changed her thinking about voting in a profound way. Before, she took voting for granted. After, with a greater knowledge of the struggle African-Americans endured to earn the franchise during the civil rights movement, Sara understands the primacy of voting to the democratic experience.
The Effective Citizenship Award established by the Kids Voting Board two years ago has done much to coordinate the shared focus of both Kids Voting and National History Day. As seen in the accomplishments of the students receiving this award, this honor clearly illustrates an understanding of the role that each person plays in a democratic society and highlights the vital importance of each citizen exercising their duty to vote.