Introduction and Acknowledgments
The Georgia College & State University Public Achievement program is linked to the GCSU American Democracy Project participation in an ADP National Civic Agency Initiative. Participating ADP universities gathered in St. Paul, Minnesota in November 2008 at which time several staff members from the Center for Democracy and Citizenship (University of Minnesota and currently based at Augsburg College) introduced Public Achievement. In fact, a panel of fifth and sixth grade students and their teacher addressed the conference. The GCSU delegation returned to Milledgeville with an interest in exploring Public Achievement's application at the university and in the community.
The GCSU Civic Agency Initiative Planning Group listed Public Achievement as one of its goals and subsequently, in the spring semester of 2009,The Leadership Community, a Residential Learning Community dedicated to civic engagement, joined two professors in launching a Public Achievement pilot project with a group of Baldwin High School students who were participating in an afterschool enrichment program, Youth Enrichment Services of Baldwin County (YES). Over a three-month period, two PA groups led by Georgia College "coaches" successfully pursued a project and because of this experience, Professors Jan Clark and Gregg Kaufman resolved to create two courses, Grassroots Community Organizing I and II for the following academic year.
Twenty-five students enrolled in the Fall Semester 2009 Grassroots course and twenty-four in the Spring Semester 2010 course. Eleven students took both courses. The students worked with 110 Oak Hill Middle School students in eleven PA groups over the course of the entire academic year. At the same time, the Grassroots students read community organizing materials, used the PA guide, Building Worlds, Transforming Lives, Making History, A Guide to Public Achievement, Roudy Hildreth, and discussed and wrote extensively. The first year of Public Achievement accomplished its objectives of engaging university and public school students in applying Public Achievement's core concepts and public skills relative to specific projects designed to serve the public good. At the same time, we also learned from our mistakes.
As we move forward with Public Achievement, the 2010-2011 Public Achievement I and II course will be managed in a different way. The first semester will be devoted to understanding the content related to public speech and work, community organizing, educational pedagogy and classroom management, and active citizenship. Georgia College students will work with several PA teams in a YES program based in an elementary school during the second semester.
We wish to acknowledge Harry Boyte, Dennis Donovan, and the Augsburg College Center for Democracy and Citizenship staff for their inspiration and support as well as Dr. Elaine Whitaker, Department of English and Rhetoric Chairperson, Dr. Jan Mabie, Department of Government and Sociology Chairperson, and the YES staff for their collegiality.