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Public Affairs Academy Empowers Teens

Twenty-eight high school students from acrossthe stateare on the Missouri State University campus this week for the Public Affairs Academy. They’re learning about societal problems and how they can make a difference. KSMU’s Missy Shelton reports.

It’s been a decade since the Public Affairs Academy first started as a way to show high school students about civic engagement and what it means to be an active citizen. Academy director Candace Fisk says the academy is a way to show young people how they can make a difference.

Fisk says, “Many times, young people are perceived by older adults as being in waiting mode. This academy empowers them to think that they can make a difference right now. They’re not yet voting age. They’re not yet legally adults. They’re 21 or even 18 but that doesn’t mean they can’t make a difference in the world.”

The lesson seems to be sinking in for academy participants. Tyler Scroggs will be a junior this fall at Kickapoo High School in Springfield. He explains what he’ll take away from the Missouri Public Affairs Academy.

Tyler says, “When I leave the academy, I will have taken with me friendships, that I hope will last a long time. I’ll also take away a feeling of humility and also that I’m a citizen. I take away that I can make a difference in my community and that the issues are important.”

For some participants, the academy is an eye-opening experience. There are guest speakers throughout the nine-day academy who discuss poverty and international issues. Alexsandra McMahan will be a senior this fall at Neosho Senior High. She says it’s been an enlightening experience for her.

Alexsandra says, “Although many things cause me to realize how ignorant I was and people were around me, they also made realize how easy and simple it is to make that education possible for everyone. Because of that, there are so many small steps I can take and will take when I leave this academy to benefit others. I think it has provided me with the tools to change my life.”

The Missouri Public Affairs Academy continues through this weekend.During the week, students have the chance to write an advocacy letter for a cause of their choice. And some academy alumni have gone back to their communities and started service projects that produced tangible results.