Student Perspectives on Civic and Character Education

Now it’s the students’ turn. How can social studies teachers make civics and civic life more relevant and engaging for them and their peers? What worked, what didn’t, what was missing, and how can it be improved to help students participate in the civic life of our community. We bring together students from different backgrounds to reflect on their experience with civics education and civic engagement and share perspectives on this year’s special conference topics (school culture, news literacy, and character education) and why and how they matter for civic identity.  

The Panelists

Mishka Banuri

Organizer, Salt Lake City

Mishka Banuri is an 18 year old organizer from Salt Lake City. She has been politically active since 7th grade, holding statewide organizations, institutions, and politicians accountable for their actions on climate and social issues. She works with Utah Youth for Environmental Solutions (UYES) and is a 2019 Uplift Organizing Fellow, focusing on connecting environmental and social justice issues. Mishka recently won the Brower Youth Award, and was named one of the top 100 Asian Americans in 2018. Mishka is also passionate about reproductive justice, particularly centering marginalized voices. She is a peer educator with Teen Council, a program run by Planned Parenthood that provides sexual education to young people. As a Pakistani-American Muslim, Mishka seeks to build bridges and empower Muslim youth and youth of color. She is the Director of the Ambassador Program for the Emerald Project, which fights the misinterpretation of Islam. She is also the co-founder of the Utah Muslim Women's Alliance, an organization that fights sexist Islamophobia.

Rachel Dikwa-Nkrumah

Chair, Student Advisory Council to the Utah State Board of Education

Rachel Dikwa-Nkrumah is a Ghanaian First Generation student. Planning to attend Cornell College for Pre-Med. She has been involved with community service and leadership since Elementary school. Being part of multiple outreach programs in Cache Valley. She served as Chairman for multiple terms to her High School. Rachel was a part of Citizens Against Physical and Sexual Abuse (CAPSA), helping High School students learn about abusive relationships and healthy relationships. She participated in the 2018 Distinguished Young Women, and is the Chairman of Utah’s own Student Advisory council, working to advocate for changes to the curriculum and communities of Utah schools.Rachel is also on the UServe Utah council working to increase volunteerism in Youth. She is an advocate for the LBGTQ+ community and Ethnic Diversity.

Ashley Larson

VP Public Relations, Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America-Utah Chapter

Ashley Larson was honored to spend her senior year serving as the 2018-2019 FCCLA Vice President of Public Relations. FCCLA is a national student-lead organization focused on leadership development and personal growth through Family and Consumer Sciences. In her position, Ashley wrote a monthly state newsletter, visited Utah FCCLA chapters and taught workshops around the country. She finds joy in networking and meeting new people and is known for her firm, yet friendly, handshake. Ashley will be attending BYU in the fall studying Physiology and Developmental Biology. She is looking forward to a career in medicine. Ashley loves Nutella and rainy days. When she has free time, you can find Ashley running or playing guitar. Ashley’s guiding mantra is: “Positivity is key.”

Ciara Khor-Brogan

Member, Utah Mock Trial Team

Ciara Khor-Brogan is an International Baccalaureate senior and member of West High’s Mock Trial Team. Her team has qualified as one of the top four teams in Utah for the past three years and this year won the state championship! With the help of Utah's legal community, her team has raised over $40,000 to compete as the first ever Utah team in invitational Empire World Championships in San Francisco and in New York. “Mock trial has been the highlight of my high school experience,” says Ciara, “creating an invaluable opportunity to learn about our legal system and inspiring me to pursue a career in law.”  Ciara will be attending UC Berkeley this fall, where she hopes to further expand my skills in mock trial.

Ainsley Moench

Leader, March for our Lives Utah

Ainsley Moench is an incoming senior and AP student at Skyline High School. She is on the executive team of March for Our Lives Utah as well as the president of her school’s Political Activism club. One of her passions is building healthy conversation and action addressing the youth suicide crisis in Utah. She is working to help students become more politically active and educated on these issues. Outside of activism, Ainsley enjoys caring for her bearded dragon and trying out new crazy hair colors.

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William Shields, Social Studies Teacher, West Jordan Middle School and award-winning coach for We the People, a simulations program. 


Innovative Approaches to Elementary Character and

Social-Emotional Learning

Tufts University’s CIRCLE program, authors of The Republic Is Still at Risk, helps us understand the connection between SEL/character and civic learning: “To be successful in civic life and contribute to society, students must learn to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions (CASEL definition of SEL in italics)…Students with better socioemotional skills are likely to be more ethical and effective citizens, and experiences with civic learning can boost SEL outcomes,”—a two-way street. Panelists from a range of contexts and perspectives address these connections and share powerful models for elementary teachers and schools.

The Panelists

Kitty Barney

Principal, Roosevelt Elementary

Kitty Barney, Principal at Roosevelt Elementary, a Title I school in Weber School District, has been working as an educator for 23 years.  Kitty believes that every child has purpose and can be a leader in one or more areas. Upon noting how well Franklin Covey’s Leader in Me program aligned with Weber School District’s Mission (“ provide educational experiences which motivate each student to become a lifelong learner, attain academic and personal potential, and enter the work force with the necessary skills.”) and vision (“we are loved and we love learning) statements, Kitty led her faculty in a book study of Leader in Me.  She then set to work helping a team of teachers in creating their own mission and vision statement for Roosevelt Elementary: Roosevelt Elementary exists to provide a safe environment that fosters the academic, social, and emotional success of every child.

Upon completing the first year of The Leader in Me process, the students organized Leader in Me Day, a celebration devoted to showcasing the students’ efforts to set and accomplish goals around a class mission statement. Over 200 parents, school board members, community leaders and other educators participated.