Building 21High School

Building 21 High School Students Honored by Governor’s Office

Building 21 High School Students Honored by Governor’s Office
Posted on 04/29/2019
On Monday, April 29, students from Building 21 traveled to Harrisburg to receive the Governor’s Civic Engagement Award for their efforts to register over 85% of their student body to vote. 

The Governor’s Civic Engagement Award was created one year ago to recognize schools for their work in registering eligible students to vote.  Schools across Pennsylvania are challenged to support at least 65% of eligible students to register to vote in time for primary elections in May.  Schools that register at least 85% of eligible students to vote, like Building 21, are awarded with “gold” status.

This year Building 21 will graduate its first class of students, and for the first time had an eligible group of students who were over the age of 18. Throughout the course of the school year, students at Building 21 have worked to engage and educate their fellow students on the importance of voting. 

In class, students learned that the presidential election of 2016 saw less than 45% of eligible voters between the ages of 18-29 turn out to vote - the lowest turnout of any age group. After many weeks of voter registration activities, students at Building 21 were able to report to the Governor’s office that 87% of eligible voters had completed their registration to vote.  

At Monday’s award ceremony, three student leaders from Building 21, speaking on behalf of their peers, shared what it meant to them to become registered voters and how they had successfully engaged so many of their classmates to become voters. Building 21 seniors Keitly Ramirez, Destiny Santiago, and Jelissa Santiago, shared the personal impact of joining their community’s civic life as voters, noting that for many of Building 21’s 18-year-olds, they will be the first in their family to cast a ballot in an election.  Students took what they learned in the classroom home to share with family members, inspiring many to register to vote.  Upon learning that Hispanics have historically low voter turnout in Allentown, it became personal for them to create a new culture of voting within the community. 

As for faculty advisor Shannon Salter, Building 21 Founding Social Studies Teacher, “This award recognizes the successful conclusion of a sort of final exam in civics for the students at our school.  If high school is about preparing students for adult life, what could more clearly demonstrate that students are ready to take their place in the adult civic life of their community than students signing up to vote?” said Salter. 

The Governor’s Civic Engagement Award now hangs on the wall at Building 21, not only celebrating this year’s accomplishment, but issuing a challenge to future graduating classes.  The award plaque contains blank spaces waiting to be inscribed in future years.  The Allentown School District is incredibly proud of the dedication to advocacy displayed by our students and their understanding of the importance of student voice.

The three students who accepted the award on behalf of their peers have a message for future Building 21 students - Keep up the good work and earn another gold level award again next year!!