|Rockdale’s student civic awareness program gears up for second year|
|Written by Joshua Smith|
CONYERS—Trent Fowler, 17, loves biology. But the high school senior has a new-found respect for politics, thanks to Rockdale County’s 2-year-old Georgia Civic Awareness Program for Students (GCAPS).
“I remember everything in this program. From touring the local jail to attending a Board of Commissioners’ meeting, all of it was very educational,” said Fowler, who attends Eastminster School. “The program helped me understand the magnitude of politics and the influence that I can have on my community.”
Fowler is one of 12 students who were part of the Rockdale pilot program launched last year in Conyers. Students from all three of Rockdale’s high schools and one private school were represented in the program. Rockdale is now accepting applicants for this year’s program, which is open to students in public high schools, private schools and home schoolers. Twelve students will be accepted to the program.
Developed and supported with a $3,250 grant from the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, GCAPS supports increased civic awareness and engagement among Georgia’s youths. The program first started in Georgia in 2006 in Oconee and Wilkerson counties.
“GCAPS offers high school students a vital opportunity to experience government beyond the classroom and showcases the importance of local officials and citizens working together,” said Rockdale County GCAPS Program Manager Brittany Johnson.
Students in the six-month program get a behind-the-scenes look at all the agencies that keep Rockdale running. In addition to attending a Board of Commissioners’ meeting, students tour the county firehouse, county jail, Police Department, Watershed Management and even the State Capitol.
Last year, students interacted with several state officials at the Capitol including State Representatives Tonya Peterson Anderson, Dale Rutledge and Chuck Williams, as well as Senator Bill Cowsert, Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Gov. Nathan Deal.
“The first year was awesome. We are looking forward to this year,” Johnson said. “This is a great program to put on your resume and college letters because at each monthly meeting, you will visit a new government agency. You will gain an understanding other students just won’t have.”
Students eligible to participate in the program must live in or attend school in Rockdale County, and must be a high school sophomore or junior as of August 2013. The program is offered to students free of charge, courtesy of ACCG’s three-year government grant.
Last year, Rockdale County spokesperson Tonya Parker says the program spent about $1,100 of the grant it received, providing the students with snacks, tour handouts, a graduation dinner and certification of completion.
“This program is perfect for that future politician, but overall, the program is great because it shows high school kids what the county does and gives them an in-depth look at careers in government,” said Parker.