Column:Students learn about citizenship

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 4, 2004

By Tom Eaton

With all the ads, all the campaigning, it must be an election year.

What do you think of when it comes to elections, when it comes to being a good citizen?

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A group of fifth-graders are learning about citizenship and what it means. This group includes representatives from each of our elementary schools and they meet once a month to learn what it means to be a good citizen. These students will select the next District 241 Citizen of the Year.

The history of selecting the Citizen of the Year dates back to 1976. In the spring of that year the District 241 Innovative Project Council and the school board approved a &uot;Century of Citizenship Awards&uot; project. It was the bicentennial year and the purpose was to encourage elementary students to seek out examples of good citizenship. The project’s first recipient was Ruth Palmer, who was selected in 1977.

The 100th recipient will be in the spring of 2076.

An article in the March 1, 1976 edition of the Albert Lea Tribune had this quote from Ray Henderson, who at that time was the school district’s Director of Elementary Education.

&uot;The committee organizing the project looked for a list of qualifications for good citizenship, but we could find nothing where someone had written down a list of things a good citizen should be. It’s no wonder we have trouble teaching citizenship when no one really knows what it is.

We finally decided to go to the classrooms and ask the children what good citizenship meant. We boiled their answers down into the list of qualifications we will be using.&uot;

The list of qualifications are:

Should be an active, participating citizen of District 241 for at least four years

Has contributed to the community beyond the requirements of the job

Shows concern for the future of the residents of District 241

Exercises their rights as a citizen

Respects and obeys the laws

Has a positive attitude toward self and others

Makes others happy by sharing and caring

Is dependable, trustworthy and has a good moral character

Do you know someone who has these qualifications? If so, it is that time of year, the committee is now seeking nominations for the next

Citizen of the Year. Anyone age five and older may be nominated.

Yes, that is not a misprint, a student may be nominated. Nomination forms are available at any of our schools and at various Albert Lea businesses.

The lessons learned by this group of fifth graders on what our freedoms are and what citizenship is, will be life long lessons for this year’s citizenship committee. Who knows, maybe one day you will be honored to be District 241 Citizen of the Year.

(Tom Eaton, a resident of Albert Lea, is a District 241 school board member.)