Students make their voices heard in civic program

Published 5:13 pm Monday, November 11, 2013

By Michelle Adams / Community Columnist

Select students from all three Montevallo schools attended the Students’ Institute Program Nov. 1.

Adams (contributed)

Students’ Institute Program (contributed)

This program, a collaborative effort between the David Mathews Center for Civic Life and the University of Montevallo Office of Service Learning, offers a field trip each month of the school year for students to engage in civic-oriented discussion and leadership development. Toward the end of the school year, students will participate in two community forums to discuss issues they have found to be important to the success of Montevallo.

The first field trip was to American Village and focused on citizenship. Students defined citizenship, learned about the naturalization process and discussed the responsibilities of citizens.

“Citizenship sets a theme for all other trips,” DMC intern Lauren Davis said. “There is no age requirement to be an active citizen, so students shouldn’t feel less important because they are young. This program advocates students voicing their opinions in order to make great change and make a difference in their schools and community.”

Davis worked with Mayor Hollie Cost and DMC Program Director Cristin Foster to create and plan this program.

Students collaborated in problem-solving groups to identify and create a visual map of Montevallo’s assets and challenges.

“Groups included all ages of students,” Montevallo High Student Government President Zach Tutwiler said. “Working with younger students made us realize the importance of being a role model and being more involved as a citizen.”

Future Students’ Institute field trips aim to address, inform and promote better understanding of the assets and challenges facing Montevallo. The locations chosen aim to help students recognize ways active citizens work to improve their community, and then assess the locations and services to determine how they could be further utilized by the schools.

“Students will reflect after each trip, detailing what they believe could be improved, if something is missing, or if a change is needed that can allow a service to be more useful to their school,” Davis said.

Future topics and locations are “Bettering the Environment” at the recycling center, water plant and gardens; “University Day and Scavenger Hunt” at UM; and “Caring for our Citizens” at Head Start, the senior center and Shelby Emergency Assistance.


Michelle Adams, an English teacher and the newspaper sponsor at Montevallo High, is a community columnist for the Shelby County Reporter. She can be reached at