Thanks to the efforts of three teachers at Oak Park and River Forest High School, more than 500 juniors and seniors had the chance last week to see their first semester civics class come to life.

The first-ever Civics Service Learning Fair brought students face to face with many elected leaders at both the local and state level. Cong. Danny Davis, state Senate President Don Harmon, state Reps La Shawn Ford and Camille Lilly, and Oak Park Village President Vicki Scaman were all there. They encouraged the students to feel the power they have to change the direction of our politics and to focus on issues that directly impact them.

It didn’t hurt the messaging that Lilly and Scaman graduated from OPRF. And for Junior Jamari Thomas it was meaningful to see three Black elected officials on the panels. “As a Black person, seeing people with the same skin color as mine in that position is inspiring,” he said.

We’re not always fans when state-mandated school curriculum decisions come tumbling out of Springfield. But the 2017 mandate that civics be restored to high school curriculums resonates as essential in this depraved moment when we watch intentional disinformation being spread in a perverse effort to undermine our democracy.

With two dozen local nonprofits and civic groups arrayed within the fair, students also had the opportunity to connect with a group whose mission is meaningful as they select a cause for their required five hours of community service.

Congratulations to Steve Schwartz, Matt Maloney and Brian Dubina, the teachers who made this happen.

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