Forty schools. Forty leaders. Twenty days. This is the goal of the “Students and Leaders” program sponsored by C-SPAN and Comcast in area high schools this month.
During the 20 working days of May, government and media leaders are going to 40 schools in the Comcast cable service area to educate students about public service.
“Our number one goal is to bring together 40 local schools and 40 leaders in 20 days and have each person engaged in a meaningful discussion in an intimate setting,” said Joanne Wheeler, director of community relations and education for C-SPAN.
The five lesson plans C-SPAN proposed for the discussions are leadership and public service, the judicial system, the legislative system, the executive branch and the field of journalism. The speakers are expected to loosely follow a format that includes time for lecturing and response to students’ questions.
In an interview before the event, Juan Williams, a senior correspondent for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” program, said he planned to discuss journalism in politics, war coverage, and possible ways to cover the upcoming presidential campaigns.
“I read two to three papers a day and compared journalists’ writing because I so badly wanted to be one,” said Williams. “But I never talked to an actual journalist. I want students to have that.”
Legislative leaders scheduled to participate in the program are Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.), Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), Albert Wynn (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.).
Putnam, who is the youngest Member of Congress, said he looked at this as an opportunity to tell young people that there are opportunities in public service for them. He plans to discuss the obstacles he overcame running for a House seat at age 27 and the importance of voting.
“I want to show young people that they are uniquely qualified for public office and [by not voting] they are missing their opportunity to craft public policy,” Putnam said.
On the other end of the experience spectrum is Moran, in his sixth term, who said he takes every opportunity he gets to speak to high school and college students.
“High school students are future leaders in my district and in the country. I think it’s a great opportunity to reach them,” Moran said. “To talk to high school students energizes me.”
There were only two criterion schools had to meet to be eligible for the program: They had to be in the Comcast service area, and they had to be able to fit the program into their schedule.
Principals were responsible for selecting the students to participate. Damascus High School Principal Robert Domergue said he selected students involved in their campus publications and student government members.
“Anytime students get the opportunity to hear outside professionals come in and talk they benefit from it,” said Domergue. “It may benefit them just to hear what [leaders] do in their day to day.”
In conjunction with the program, C-SPAN and Comcast are offering three $5,000 scholarships and 10 $1,000 scholarships for 13 high school seniors who view one of the “Students and Leaders” programs. The program will air at 7 and 8:30 p.m. weekdays through May 23 on C-SPAN 3.
One of two C-SPAN school buses will be at each site for tours and as a classroom for educating teachers about the program. C-SPAN, which is funded by the cable industry, provides the program free to educators.