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High School Students Participate in Public Affairs Academy

This week, 35 high school students are in Springfield for the Public Affairs Academy at Missouri State University. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

During the week, academy participants listen to speakers on a variety of topics. They spent a day in Jefferson City, learning about the three branches of government. And before they leave town this weekend, they'll choose a public service project to implement during the next school year.

But not all of the high students attending the Public Affairs Academy want to be Senators or lawyers. Some want to be musicians, scientists or teachers.

Candace Fisk, director of the Public Affairs Academy says the academy has a broad interpretation of public affairs.

Take for example academy participant Tara Hammer. She'll be a junior at Kickapoo High School in Springfield this fall. When she gets to college, she says she wants to study chemical physics and the academy has helped her see how she can put her skills to use in the community. Hammer already volunteers her time at a local hospital and through the Sisters in Science program, which pairs high school students with elementary students. She says she'd like to start her own tutoring program, one that's aimed at young girls who are interested in math.

As part of the Public Affairs Academy, students commit to implementing a service project during the next school year.

To help the students focus on a real need in the community, the academy brings in speakers on topics related to poverty.

Academy Director Candace Fisk says a speaker from Ozarks Food Harvest provided some eye-opening information earlier this week.

Academy participant Emily Spirk.

Spirk says she'd like to initiate a city-wide canned food drive when she returns to her high school outside Kansas City. She says she learned during the academy that food pantries often need more donations during the summer and she says she'd like to help.

Academy Director Candace Fisk says her goal is to give students like Spirk the tools they need to implement these kinds of service projects.

The academy wraps up Saturday when students will articulate their own personal commitment to public affairs and making their communities better.