A Carleton duo took home top honors at the Debating for Democracy (D4D) competition in March for their presentation on proposed education reform. On Mar 24, Anna Fure-Slocum ’12 and Nick Welna ’12 traveled to Pace University in New York City to participate in the final round of the Project Pericles competition, which attracts students from across the nation looking to weigh in on policy issues. In the end, Fure-Slocum and Welna impressed the panel of judges and won the entire competition, receiving a grant of $3,000 to fund their initiative.
Project Pericles is a not-for-profit organization that promotes active civic engagement on college campuses around the nation. This is the second year that Carleton has been a part of this now 29-member cooperation. Debating for Democracy is a program sponsored by Project Pericles that encourages students to write a legislative letter, in which they submit a proposal on a policy issue of their choice. Carleton has been successful with its proposals, as last year, a team of Carleton students advanced to the finals as well and earned a grant of $500 to fund a transportation bill.
As aspiring future educators, Fure-Slocum and Welna wrote their letter to Representative John Kline about the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the importance of its reformation in developing an education system conducive to student involvement.
The team expressed the desire to promote a policy that will bring students more to the forefront of managing the learning process. Fure-Slocum said that they plan to “implement student-centered education” by “incorporating student feedback in teacher evaluations, student input in school reform, testing that looks at a range of student abilities, and innovation grants for schools with student-centered curricula.”
She added, “Basically, we want students to have a voice and to be able to be active in their own education.”
Welna also commented on how they wish to transcend the traditional methods of education. “I think that the way we teach now hurts people, it makes way too many brilliant human beings think that they’re not brilliant at all.” He also mentioned how he hopes reform will push creative potential beyond what exists in “the limitations of traditional education.”
Fure-Slocum and Welna are both involved in outreach groups in the community that work with “immigrant and low-income youth” who may not be as privileged as those we are used to seeing around Carleton. Many “face daily challenges” that are hard to imagine, but these two have seen such youth rise above their predisposed conditions.
Welna has faith in the amelioration of our education system. “It’s not easy, and I sure don’t feel like I’m gifted or experienced enough to have any sort of miraculously profound impact on these kids, but we do what we can and it does make an important difference week after week. I think Anna and I are motivated most simply by a love for our students, and we plan to show that love by giving them the education they want and deserve.”
Despite their modesty, Fure-Slocum and Welna are no doubt making extraordinary impressions on the community as well as on the multitude of educational sectors. Kudos on both the team’s win and passionate activism.