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Leaders in Learning: Students take over Idaho State Capitol for lesson in civil engagement

For their final project of the school year, the students took to the steps of Idaho's State Capitol for a mock rally (KBOI Staff Photo).

Debate and speech students from Columbia High School in Nampa are getting a lesson in 'standing up for what they believe in.'

For their final project of the school year, they took to the steps of Idaho's State Capitol for a mock rally.

The students were given a piece of legislation to debate. In this case, they discussed House Bill 412 — whether Idaho should participate in Common Core education.

Like with any speech or debate, the students began by researching both sides of the topic.

Then, they were assigned roles to hone in on and ultimately to 'act out' — some students were assigned to play political figures, others pretended to be concerned citizens, and some even acted as media asking tough questions.

"I have never participated in anything like this and it's just crazy to think how many people actually haven't," said Waylon Nava, a senior at Columbia HS.

The project is meant to show students the ropes of civil engagement by allowing them to get hands on with the process.

"I think the biggest thing we can gain from this is especially recognizing the importance of getting involved in local politics," said Emma Freitas, a Senior at Columbia HS.

The group of more than 60 students are part of Columbia's speech and debate class taught by Jeff Stoppenhagen.

He believes this project teaches a lifelong lesson.

"It doesn't matter if they're an 18-year-old at Columbia High School in Nampa or they're arguing in front of their planning and zoning commission," said Mr. Stoppenhagen. "These students have a voice! This allows them to exercise that voice."

As of right now, Stoppenhagen says Columbia High School is the only school in Idaho that does this kind of project, but he hopes to see more schools try it out in the future.

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