Column: Reviving the Constitution

By Chanel Bingham / Religion Columnist

On an ordinary weekday at the Chilton County Board of Registrar’s office, a unique friendship began to blossom. A young man from Virginia, who recently moved to our area, stopped by to update his voter registration status. He struck up a conversation with the registrar and quickly discovered they shared many similar interests. Little did they know that their encounter and shared love of the U.S. Constitution would eventually lead to a partnership that would powerfully impact the lives of students and teachers across our county.

Growing up, Josh Jennings’ family business included a homeschool education conference. His parents would educate homeschooled families on the laws of homeschooling in their state of Virginia and provide instruction on how to get the most out of homeschooling programs. During one of their conferences in 2011, they invited Cathy Gillespie, co-founder of Constituting America, to be a guest speaker. She shared of their new program and their mission to “educate Americans about the Constitution and the rights and liberties it provides and protects for all of us.” Jennings passion for the Constitution grew through this informative program, and he watched as this organization became a resource for teachers in schools across the nation.

Sherry Cox had been retired from the public school system for nearly four years and was working as a registrar in Chilton County when Josh Jennings walked into her office on that fateful day. Unbeknownst to him, she missed being a part of the schools and was working on pulling together a lesson plan about the Constitution to enrich the student’s curriculum. As they discussed their mutual passion, the foundation was laid for their partnership in bringing the Constituting America program to every middle school student in Chilton County.

“I began the process by reaching out to vice principals at our middle schools,” shared Cox. “All six schools were very excited, but I had to get an approximate number of students in order to purchase the textbooks. Once I had that information, I began calling individuals that I knew in town and writing letters to organizations. All of our donors were most generous in their giving, and we received over $5,000 to purchase textbooks.”

Cox goes on to share that every student has access to the textbooks.

“All students have a book that remains with the school,” she said. “They also receive a pocket Constitution that they get to keep. The program is implemented in the seventh and eighth grade classes of either civics or history, but it can also be taught at lower and upper grade levels. We had four of our six middle schools participate in the program this year with the two remaining schools scheduled to participate next year.”

Co-founder of Constituting America and actress Janine Turner, best known for her role as Maggie O’Connell in “Northern Exposure,” actively participates in the teaching portion of this program. Jennings explained how her teaching is utilized within the classroom.

“Once a presentation is scheduled, Janine is livestreamed in the classroom through Google Hangouts,” he explained. “She teaches from the textbook and asks questions. If a student answers correctly, they receive a prize. The students see her and she sees the students. The conversation is very interactive.”

One of the amazing things about this book is that it was written by Janine’s then 14-year-old daughter. At the time of publication, Former First Lady Barbara Bush wrote, “Our Constitution Rocks is a fun, informative, and relevant book that will empower the youth in our country with the knowledge they need to succeed. Juliette Turner may be only 14 years old, but she highlights the importance of the Constitution for her generation and many to follow.”

This powerful textbook turns the constitution into a fun, easy to understand document that promotes its relevancy and importance in our modern culture.

In support of their mission to educate Americans about the Constitution, the Constituting America organization implements several programs to include the We the Future Contest for kids. The contest is open to all students in grades K-12 and includes the following categories: Entrepreneurial, Essay, Song, STEM and Still Photography. Winners receive cash awards and national recognition, along with various other prizes. Teachers can also win money for their classrooms through their contests. Officials rules and instructions can be found on their website.

Both Jennings and Cox are excited about the future of Constituting America in our county.

“We are very fortunate to have this program in our public school system,” said Jennings. “Each year, I would like to see more grades added to this program and have it in every school. We’ve got to bring the Constitution and family values back into the home. Unfortunately, some are not getting it at home, so they have to get it at school.”

Cox echoes his sentiment.

“Right now, I can’t think of anything more important. The focus is on reading, math, and science, and it [history] has been left behind. This gives teachers another tool in their tool box, and I’m hoping the kids get excited enough to talk about it at home.”

In closing, Cox offers some sound advice.

“We should all pray for inspiration and guidance for our school administrators, and teachers, and parents, as well as our elected city, state and national officials.”

She also leaves us with a quote by John Adams as written on page one of the pocket Constitution: Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.

To learn more about the Constituting America program, please visit their website at www.constitutingamerica.org. If you would like to inquire about bringing the program to your student’s classroom, please contact Sherry Cox at scox5683@gmail.com or Josh Jennings at joshryanjennings@gmail.com.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Below is a list of Constituting America donors for 2017-2018:

United Way of Chilton County, Chilton County Republican Executive Committee, Representative Jimmy Martin, Representative April Weaver, Key Properties (Jimmy and Dian Easterling), Richard Moore and Peoples Southern Bank, Probate Judge Bobby Martin, Circuit Clerk Glenn McGriff, Clanton’s Lions Club and Mickey Bates and Friends.

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