UPDATED: High School Club Dives into Political Issues, Running Forum on ESL and Immigration

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{Please note, the date of the Forum on Language Learning and Immigration has been changed to March 28 due to snow on the 21st}

A group of students interested in politics and issues facing Watertown and the country has formed the Youth Political Action Committee or YPAC. Along with trying to get Watertown High School students more aware of politics, the group has taken on issues and next week will host a forum on one of them.

On Monday, March 28 YPAC will help run the Forum on Language Learning and Immigration at the Watertown High School Lecture Hall from 7-9 p.m.

YPAC started last spring when one of the founders, junior Isaac Gibbons, was looking at a recent election.

“It was after the 2012 elections. I was looking hard at the abysmal young voter turn out and it concerned me,” Gibbons said.

When he looked around at the avenues to make a difference at the high school, he did not see much.

“I called up Rep. (Jonathan) Hecht,” Gibbons said. “He said you could always start something yourself.”

YPAC looks at politics, but Gibbons said it is non-partisan. The goal is to get high school age students to be more politically and civically aware.

“The younger people are engaged the more likely they are to remained engaged,” Gibbons said.

The group also took on some issues impacting the people of Watertown. One issue that caught their interest was how immigrants and those who do not speak English are taught to speak the language in school.

Right now, the state requires a “one-size fits all” program for ESL classes, called sheltered English Immersion. However, State Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez of Jamaica Plain has proposed the LOOK – Language Opportunity for Our Kids act – that would allow school districts to have more control on how they teach ESL students.

YPAC has also linked up with local groups dealing with that issue, such as Project Literacy (which teaches adults English), and the Watertown Public School’s English Language Learners program.

The forum on March 21 will look into issues around teaching English to immigrants and other issues.

Gibbons and the other YPAC members also want Watertown students to get more interested or even aware of what’s going on politically. He said they will try to get students who are 18 by the Presidential election to register and vote in the election.

They will have to choose a candidate, and Gibbons said YPAC found a way to help them out. The Pew “Where Do You Fit In” survey, helps people figure out if they are conservative, liberal, or where they sit in between. (Take the survey here).

Sadly, for Gibbons, he will not yet be old enough to vote in the Presidential election in November.


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