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    Tuesday, February 27, 2024

    Applauding a civic engagement club

    Local government directly impacts us in a variety of ways. Local zoning regulations determine what can be built where. Municipal budgets determine how much we pay in property taxes for our cars and homes. Boards of education set policies that must be carried out in our public schools. Recreation officials help ensure municipal parks are maintained.

    Despite how much municipal government touches our everyday lives, only about a third of voters turned out in 2023 to cast ballots to choose their local leaders, according to data published by the Connecticut Mirror. This data also shows that this has been a typical voting rate in municipal elections since 2017.

    Our youngest voters, those 18 to 29 years old, also tend to turn out in even smaller numbers. This is true for national, as well as local, elections. In the 2018 and 2022 national midterm elections, for example, that age group made up only about 10% of the total voters, according to data compiled by the Pew Research Center.

    If a group of Stonington High School students are successful in their efforts to promote civic engagement, however, these numbers may be increasing in that corner of southeastern Connecticut. That would certainly be good news.

    Ella Rothman, a sophomore, and Maddie DeLaura, a junior, this year founded the Community Civics Advocate Club as a way for students to learn how local government works and encourage community involvement. Some 24 students attended an initial club meeting held in October, a turnout that club advisor Ann-Marie Houle called “big.”

    Club meetings will feature visits from town employees, who will speak about their work and its significance. First Selectman Danielle Chesebrough, who inspired Rothman to begin the club, spoke to the group at its first meeting, for example.

    Listening and learning is one goal of the club. Another is getting involved. To meet that goal, students have identified individual interests ranging from local history to climate change and are seeking ways to make a difference in those areas. Some students, for example, may work to identify veterans’ graves at all the town’s 45 cemeteries and burial grounds. Others may work on landscaping projects with the town’s Beautification Committee. Still others might work to help boost the town’s social media presence.

    “I think it could affect the town,” DeLaura told a Day reporter recently. “If people start getting involved now, then in the future there might be younger people getting involved in the local government.”

    Houle, who is a multi-disciplinary teacher at the high school, enthusiastically supports and encourages the students’ efforts. “I think it’s completely inspiring that they want to start something like this, and there was definitely a ton of involvement and enthusiasm,” she told a Day reporter.

    These students’ interest in and dedication to their local community is inspiring. We encourage their efforts and hope they find plenty of worthy causes and projects to accomplish. They also should speak up about issues that are of importance to them so they can encourage the town’s leaders to address those causes.

    We also hope they find a way to encourage their peers in other communities to form similar clubs. Their enthusiasm surely will be contagious and help build a foundation for a future generation of leaders.

    The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Timothy Dwyer, Executive Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, copy editor Owen Poole and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from The Day newsroom.

    The Day editorial board meets with political, business and community leaders to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Timothy Dwyer, Executive Editor Izaskun E. Larraneta, Owen Poole, copy editor, and Lisa McGinley, retired deputy managing editor. The board operates independently from The Day newsroom.

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