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Involving Students in Civic Affairs

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Students from five Buffalo public high schools and one middle school are beginning lessons in "civic affairs" as part of a national program.

About 100 local city school students will participate in "Project 540." It is a nationwide program designed to engage young Americans in civic activities. A team of facilitators from Providence College in Rhode Island will be in Buffalo Monday and Tuesday to train local students as team leaders.

Susan Morrison, coordinator of school and community partnerships at Erie One BOCES, says Buffalo is the only school district in New York State selected to participate with 250 high schools nationwide.

"What's unique about the project is it brings students, teachers and administrators together exploring how their schools can become better platforms for people to get involved in their communities," Morrison said. "They become part of the solution, not part of the problem."

Morrison says "Project 540" will give local students a chance to explore what they can do to make their schools and even communities safe and caring environments.

"There's something unique about the name Project 540. The byline for it is 'a students turn for change', and it's a revolutionary project," Morrison said. "It's student led with adult support."

Students are participating from Lincoln Academy, Burgard, Kensington, Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts and the Riverside Institute for Technology. Once trained they will roll out an action plan seeking community support. A full report will be presented next May at U.B.

The local project is being funded by the Education Fund for Greater Buffalo. "Project 540" organizers say they're trying to reverse a 40 year decline in civic participation.