From Action Civics to Career Readiness: A Civic Learning Week Event Recap

“My favorite aspect of this project is definitely the impact that it can leave on students and their everyday lives,” said Rexella, a junior at Central High School in Providence, Rhode Island. 

Last spring, Rexella and Henry were sophomores in Ms. Gormley’s Civics class, working with their peers to explore community issues for their Generation Citizen Action Civics project. Ultimately, students built consensus on teen mental health as their focus issue, having observed their peers struggling with it. Henry passionately explained how he and his peers “wanted people to understand that mental health is so much deeper than what it is, and change the stigma around it.” Ms. Gormley heard her students, and supported them through the rest of their advocacy process. 

Through participatory action research, students examined potential root causes and the effects of mental health on student learning. They created a survey for their peers at Central High School to learn students’ perspectives on mental health and what resources they needed and wanted to see inside and outside of school. The information they gathered through surveys and other research efforts informed their decision to advocate for more school-based mental health services. Students developed partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders, including district administrators and the Community Outreach Advisor at Brown University, to collaborate on hosting a mental health fair for students and families! The Mental Health and Wellness Fair is set to occur on May 14, 2024.  

On Tuesday, March 12th, Generation Citizen hosted a panel spotlighting Henry, Rexella, and their former GC Action Civics teacher, Shannon Gormley, as a part of Massachusetts and Rhode Islands’ Civic Learning Weeks. Throughout the panel discussion, they highlighted several ways that engaging in GC’s Action Civics advocacy project has impacted their lives, including how it has helped them to gain and hone life and career skills. Rexella confidently commented on how, when she becomes a general surgeon, she’ll be able to employ the leadership skills she has learned to advocate for her patients and teammates. Henry proudly noted that this project has helped him learn problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Ms. Gormley reflected on student outcomes from the project, stating, “When my students leave me, I feel like they’re more empathetic, they’re definitely better leaders, and definitely communication skills are increased.” She described how Henry changed from a chronically absent student to being present every day. In a time of high chronic absence across the country, more student-driven and project-based learning is part of the solution. Ms. Gormley also spoke about how Generation Citizen’s curriculum grew her own teaching practice: “GC really taught me to be a facilitator in the classroom and take a lot of the heavy lifting off of me and putting it on the students. …Everybody’s got different roles and jobs connecting with their strengths.” 

The skills they learned are transferable to any career, and include:

  • Communication (i.e. professional emails, phone calls to local leaders, marketing, and public speaking)
  • Project Management (i.e. time management, prioritization, planning, and organization)
  • Collaboration (building consensus as a classroom and working as a team)
  • Research & Media Literacy
  • Leadership & decision-making
  • Persistence
  • Adaptability
  • Passion for lifelong learning & civic engagement

Rexella, Henry, and Ms. Gormley closed the panel discussion with some words of encouragement for youth seeking opportunities to speak, be heard, engage, and advocate: 

“If you have an idea now that you think is probably not going to go anywhere, you just never know, you should always say your ideas, say what’s on your mind, in a respectful way, obviously. Don’t be afraid. Don’t let your age deter you from possibly doing something that could help a lot of people, if you feel like it’s a problem, if you feel like this is something that you’re passionate about. Passion can go a long way. Being passionate and being inspired is something that can really drive you. So don’t let anybody try to say that ‘that’s a dumb idea and nobody is going to want to do that’, because you never know, there’s a lot of people in this world. You never know, there could be somebody just like you thinking about the same things that you’re thinking about. So, I would just say, never be afraid to speak your mind, never be afraid to let your passion and your desires in life drive you to do great things.” – Rexella 

“Stand up for what you believe in. If you feel an injustice going on in your community, be the voice for someone who maybe doesn’t have one. You are going to get a lot of no’s, you are going to get people who don’t believe in you, you are going to get people who think that this project isn’t really that important, but if it’s important to you, that’s all that matters. That will take you a long way. If you just believe in yourself and allow yourself to dream. Dream big. Allow yourself to dream of what it can be and what it will be. Put it out there and surround yourself by positive people who are going to support you through your different endeavors.” – Henry

“There are people out there who want to hear what you have to say, so I would just say, keep talking!” – Ms. Gormley


To watch the panel discussion, visit here.

To learn more about Generation Citizen, including ways you can support, visit

To learn about how you can support Henry, Rexella, and Shannon for their Mental Health & Wellness Fair on May 14, 2024 in Providence, Rhode Island, please contact Shannon Gormley at Mental Health Fair Flyer

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *