SOPHOMORES, from left, Cade Buklarewicz, Lauren Lane and Matthew Squadrito show off their Rooftop Garden project during Lynnfield High School’s second annual Civics Action Projects Showcase on March 15. (Dan Tomasello Photo)
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — Lynnfield High School sophomores learned how to use their own voice to make positive changes in the community and beyond by creating Civics Action Projects this winter.
The high school hosted the second annual Civics Action Projects Showcase in the gym on March 15, which featured groups of sophomores who set up their projects on tables. Students answered questions from their peers, educators, town officials and House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones (R-North Reading) during the event.
“The students did a really good job this year,” said History/Social Science Department Head Susan Breen. “I am really impressed with the projects that they created.”
History/social sciences teacher Jen Goguen agreed.
“The kids’ projects were amazing this year,” said Goguen. “The students created a wide variety of different projects.”
Breen noted that the groups were able to select a topic they found to be interesting. The topics included environmental issues, human trafficking, mental health, sleep deprivation, substance use, technology addiction and vaping.
“It’s all about student voice and student choice,” said Breen. “Students brainstormed and identified areas in the community and the state they felt need to be addressed.”
Sophomores Lauren Lane, Cade Buklarewicz and Matthew Squadrito decided to create a project called Rooftop Garden that involves constructing a new garden on the LHS roof.
“We are going to put two 4-by-8 gardens on the roof,” said Lauren. “They are going to be watered by rainwater that will be collected by rain barrels. We have funding from the DPW and permission from the high school to do this project. We measured everything on the roof, and we hope to build the garden in April.”
Cade concurred with Lauren’s viewpoint.
“We are going to go up on the roof every few weeks to maintain the garden,” said Cade. “We are going to plant and harvest all of the crops.”
Matthew said the group is looking to have the new rooftop garden be “mostly automated.”
“We are hoping to install a timed watering bell that will be connected to the rain barrels,” said Matthew. “That would ensure the plants are watered every day or two.”
Sophomores Hailey Burrill, Erik Bell, Ben Pimentel and Jonathan Alipio created a project that seeks to support veterans. Hailey said the group worked with Veterans Services Officer Bruce Siegel and American Legion Post 131 Commander Tom Bogart on the project.
“Our civics project is about supporting veterans,” said Hailey. “We are trying to raise awareness to help veterans who come back with physical or mental disabilities because we want to support them. We are working with the American Legion, which is a local group that supports veterans.”
Erik said the sophomores have been raising awareness about the Red Sox Foundation’s Run to Home Base fundraiser, which is a 5K or 9K walk/run through Boston that allows participants to cross home base at Fenway Park.
“One hundred percent of the funds raised will be donated to help veterans who have PTSD and mental illness,” said Erik.
Sophomores Ella Hayman, Vincent Zheng, Olivia Sieve and Camryn Donovan undertook a project called Mental Health Room.
“There are students at the high school who are struggling with mental health,” said Ella. “We got some statistics about it from 2021, which revealed 31 percent of students are dealing with mental health challenges.”
In order to help students dealing with mental health issues, Ella said the group decided it wanted to “create a safe space for students to decompress and relax.” She said the group discussed the proposal with High School Assistant Principal Brian Bates as well as teachers.
“We are going to set up the room in the old school store that is by the café,” said Ella. “We are going to apply for a bunch of grants from A Healthy Lynnfield, Lynnfield Rotary and the Lynnfield Educational Trust. Once we get the grants, we are going to clean out the room and set everything up. Hopefully it will be ready for the start of the school year.”
Olivia said the Mental Health Room will be “really beneficial for students.”
“Students will be able to go somewhere and take a breath,” said Olivia. “It’s a safe place where students can go and not be judged.”
Lynnfield High launched the Civics Action Projects’ initiative last year in the wake of former Gov. Charlie Baker signing into law “An Act to Promote and Enhance Civic Engagement” four years ago. The law requires public high schools and middle schools to offer a nonpartisan civics project to students.
House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading) said he met with several groups both in-person and on Zoom to discuss their projects.
“The projects are fantastic,” said Jones. “I am so impressed with the projects that the students have put together, whether they have created their own or are working on legislation that has been filed. I think this is exactly what we envisioned when we created the civics legislation. It has made students engaged and it has also helped us learn what is important to them.”
Superintendent Kristen Vogel, who previously taught history for 16 years, echoed Jones’ sentiment.
“Students have taken the Civics Projects to the next level this year,” said Vogel. “Not only did students identify a topic that interested them, they reached out to lawmakers and representatives from different organizations. That is very impressive. It speaks to not only the students, but also the teachers at the high school. The teachers have pushed students to be advocates, use their voice and use their power to make change.”
History/social sciences teacher David Forster said sophomores reached out to different community members, lawmakers and representatives from different groups in order to learn more about the topic they selected.
“One of the big improvements students made this year was community outreach,” said Forster. “Students talked to a variety of different people outside of the high school. It was great.”
Breen recalled that sophomores began working on their Civics Action Projects in January.
“The students worked on their projects extensively for over six weeks,” said Breen.
When asked what she hopes students will take away from undertaking the Civics Action Projects, Breen said: “I hope students learn that their ideas matter.”
“Students learned how to talk to different people, how to do research and how to overcome roadblocks in order to effectively make change,” said Breen.