ATLANTIC CITY — Nabil Chowdhury and his classmates saw a problem with the cleanliness and safety of the bathrooms at Atlantic City High School and, through their history class’ Project Citizen assignment, they believe they have a solution.
“Our bathroom has a lot of vandalism,” said Chowdhury, 15, of Atlantic City. So the group surveyed students from neighboring school districts on their bathrooms and how students are able to access them before deciding a swipe card would be the best option.
From schoolwide troubles to pervasive social issues, sophomores at Atlantic City High School were tasked with coming up with solutions to whatever issue they deemed important, according to history teacher Ryan Gaskill.
“The kids have complete ownership of their topics. It’s one of the things I like most about the project,” Gaskill said.
On Thursday, the students presented their plans during a fair in the cafeteria.
Chowdhury’s teammate Grace Bancheri, 16, of Ventnor, said currently, Atlantic City High School students are required to sign in and out for a hall pass to go to the bathroom. She said there are some bathroom monitors, but there isn’t one at every bathroom due to staffing issues. Their solution would eliminate the need for bathroom monitors, she said.
Chowdhury and his teammates have already taken their swipe-in, swipe-out idea to the district administration in order to decrease vandalism, fights and illicit activities they say are happening in the high school bathrooms.
“We talked to the principal and she said she would try to work on it,” Chowdhury said.
Other students targeted national social issues. TyQuaysha Carpenter and Natayah Nellom said the issue of police brutality is inescapable on internet news feeds, but they had no idea how troubling the statistics were until they chose it as the topic of their Project Citizen assignment.
“I was surprised,” said Carpenter, 16, of Atlantic City, of the very low indictment rate for police officers involved in fatal shootings.
She said they found through research that part of the solution is to offer more discussions with officers about police brutality with training on de-escalation tactics, to involve the community in the discussion and to educate about a person’s Fourth Amendment rights.
Nellom, 15, of Atlantic City, said the group would like to bring their ideas to the school district and eventually see if they could present to the Atlantic City Police Department.
Gaskill said that all the US History I students participate in Project Citizen as part of state-mandated curriculum requirements. Through the project, the students have a chance to interact with local media, government and school leaders.
Several Project Citizen ideas from years past have gone on to be implemented or at least discussed at a higher level including curriculum changes, changes in the school cafeteria, and improvements to lighting and bike paths, he said.
“It’s interesting to get the perspective of the students,” Gaskill said. “Some of them really pick out things that are smaller issues, but they believe addressing those issues would make a difference in the world that they’re in.”