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Kayla O'Brien
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“What do I stand for?”

One Student Found Her Answers in Civics Class

A “closeted book nerd,” Chelsey McClelland knew the three branches of government by first grade. Studying We the People: the Citizen and the Constitution during the 2016-2017 school year, her interest in politics, government, and history “exploded.” 

“It was the most meaningful class I took in high school,” said the Franklin Central High School graduate. She just turned 18 and was probably the only Hoosier besides the candidates excited to vote in a midterm primary election.

We the People helped me think about ‘what do I stand for?’” she said.

The program affected her career choice too. She is studying secondary social studies education at IUPUI with a triple minor in political science, economics and history. She had no idea what she was going to study until that high school class.

“I want kids to know how important this citizen engagement is,” she said.  “You can’t change anything without participation.”

From a Knot in Her Stomach to Empowerment

She felt the class “amplified” her public speaking skills, describing her vocal qualities as “mousey” at the beginning of the class. By the end, she could “think quicker on my feet” and was sitting at 90-degree angles as she responded to judges’ questions. The day of the state competition, she “had a knot in my stomach” from nerves that soon dissipated after testifying once.

“It was empowering,” she said. “I finally became comfortable with my own voice.”

“How many people get to say they have spoken in front of judges on these topics,” she said excitedly.

One judge, the late Larry J. McKinney, asked her a pointed question during the follow up period. “Would you rather have 100 percent voter turnout, including uneducated voters, or 50 percent turnout with all informed voters?” That question really stuck with her.

I would choose the 50% of pre-educated voters, and I would use my power as an educator to help ensure the other 50% became well informed, thus turning the 50% into the 100%.”

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