Story by Kahlen Miao
Photo by Katelyn Hernandez
Junior Ava Dunville encourages civic engagement among third through fifth graders in weekly 30-minute Zoom workshops for her Girl Scouts Gold Award project that began on Monday, Mar. 1.
Dunville begins each of her presentations with an icebreaker before going into a deeper dive on the day’s topic. Her first lesson defined and showed examples of civic engagement, like protesting, volunteering, and writing to local elected officials. At the end, she facilitated a discussion where the kids brainstormed changes in South Pasadena they think need to be made.
In her second class, Dunville spoke on the function of the City Council and public comments, explaining who the five elected officials are and giving a rundown of a meeting agenda. Dunville chooses lesson topics as she goes, but currently plans to cover the coronavirus’ impact on South Pasadena, the importance of using green energy, and local homelessness in the future.
Her project mentor, Bill Kelly, is part of Care First South Pasadena, a local activist group whose help she is leveraging to get kids involved with local environmental movements within their schools.
“I’m really excited to be working with Care First South Pasadena. I feel like their mission really aligns with what we should all be working towards: a better community for all in terms of health, safety, and welfare,” Dunville said. “They’re a very organized and knowledgeable group and it’s been great working with them.”
Dunville’s experience with local politics and activism in the YMCA’s Youth and Government Program inspired her to teach younger kids about civic engagement.
“I don’t think it’s ever too early to start learning about [civic engagement],” Dunville said. “I think if you open the door to these discussions, kids will want to learn more.”
The Gold Award project is the Girl Scouts’ highest achievement and must consist of at least 80 hours of work and generate a lasting community impact. These difficult requirements compelled Dunville to thoroughly consider her options, before she settled on her current idea.
“While I did struggle coming up with a project, I realized that I should do something I’m passionate about if I’m going to spend so many hours doing it, and what better than civic engagement?” Dunville said, “I consider myself to be pretty active in our own local government and I’ve always voiced my opinion even if it’s just on Facebook. I think [my] accumulative acts of activism prompted me to learn more about why it’s important to speak up.”
Dunville hopes that the kids involved will use their voices to better the community. To ensure the project’s sustainability, she will be passing on her curriculum to a Marengo fifth grader teacher to lead lessons in future years. While the civic engagement classes are already underway, those interested can still enroll and contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.