Preparing Young Voters in Mesa County
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- The youth vote has been brought up multiple times during this election season , but just how prepared are young students? Many of them will be voting for the first time.
NewsChannel 5 looked into that question after a recent study out of Tufts University said Colorado was one of the weakest states for civic education requirements.
Colorado is a "local control" state, meaning each district can decide what requirements they want for their high school graduates.
For School District 51 students, civic education starts as early as elementary school.
"Ending in their senior year in actually participating in government as they are right on the eve of being able to vote and do other civic participation in the community," said Teri Lefebre, secondary science and social studies specialist for School District 51.
The latest study from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) says overall, Colorado lacks in requiring civic or government education.
Lefebre says that's not the case in District 51, where U.S. history and government are required for students.
Before a student can graduate in Mesa County they will spend more than 16,000 hours in the classroom; more than 200 hours will be spent learning social studies.
District 51 officials say civics and American government are also taught, indirectly, in other subjects as well.
"It's embedded, which personally I think is better than saying, 'You're going to take one year to do civic requirements,' but not really embed them because developmentally they need pieces as they go along."
November will be the first time high school senior Douglass Culver will be voting, and he says the district's requirements have helped him feel prepared.
"We hear our families talk around the dinner table, and [school] really brings to life what's true and what's not true. It really gives us the tools that we need as a voter to make our own decisions," said Culver.
The study also faulted Colorado for not having a statewide assessment for social studies.
District 51 officials say in 2013 there will be a standardized test that will reflect Colorado's updated academic standards, a quarter of which will be based on civic education.