What's new at this year's graduation? For many, the Seal of Civic Readiness

On Board Online • June 6, 2022

By Pauline Liu
Special Correspondent

When an estimated 190,000 New Yorkers graduate high school later this month, 4% of them (about 8,000) will be the first to receive a "Seal of Civic Readiness."

A total of 117 high schools across New York participated in a pilot program during the 2021-22 school year that gave students the opportunity for this graduation credential through a new "Seal of Civic Readiness + 1 Civics Pathway."

In the 2022-23 school year, the option of offering the seal will be available to all high schools across the state.

Participating students earn points for civic knowledge and participation, with multiple ways for students to learn and demonstrate knowledge about the functions of government. All student participants were taught to provide evidence in argumentation and demonstrate the ability to respectfully disagree with other viewpoints. Students were also encouraged to identify problems in under-served communities or school communities and find ways to address them.

"It was a great success," according to Marybeth Casey, assistant commissioner at the State Education Department (SED).

SED defines civic readiness as "the ability to make a positive difference in the public life of our communities through the combination of civic knowledge, skills and actions, mindsets and experiences."

In a review of the program during a recent meeting of the Board of Regents, several students discussed their experiences with the Regents. One was Aidan McPhail, a senior in the Greenwich Central School District in Washington County. He is senior class president and captain of both the varsity football team and baseball team.

He told the Board of Regents that public service is part of his family's legacy. His grandfather worked for the State Police, his father is a senior investigator for the State Police and his brother is currently in training. "Participation is important to me," McPhail said. He currently volunteers with the local rescue squad, is interested in becoming an EMT and expects to work in law enforcement.

For his public policy project, he studied COVID-19 protocols for frontline workers. "After considering the policies, I wrote my own policy," he said. "I learned that compromises and the importance of communities are very important for things to run smoothly."

Other students earning the Seal of Civic Readiness this year include Shawn Alexander and Anthony Medina, both seniors at Grover Cleveland H.S. in Queens. Both participate in the My Brother's Keeper program. They helped organize a virtual basketball tournament to raise money for cancer research. The amount raised was not available.

The Regents' decision to create the Seal of Civic Readiness + 1 Civics Pathway was inspired partly by the Civics for All program in New York City's schools. A task force recommended the creation of a Seal of Civic Readiness, a definition of Civic Readiness, and the elements of a Civic Capstone Project.

Applications are currently available through the NYSED Business Portal and are due on Aug. 1.

For more information, go to www.nysed.gov/curriculum-instruction/civic-readiness-initiative .

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