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Eight Hastings High School Students Chosen for Civics Unplugged Fellowship

Civics Unplugged Eight Hastings High School students have been accepted into the Fellowship Class of Civics Unplugged 2021, marking the highest number of accepted students from a single high school worldwide.

The fellowship, which accepted 500 students worldwide, is a virtual six-month civic leadership program that prepares high school students each year to become effective contributors to the movement of strengthening democracy. Hastings students who were selected are just beginning orientation.

“I wasn't sure what to expect from Civics Unplugged, but this exceeds whatever I could have imagined,” said sophomore Bee Herbstman. “We all have shared our passions and what we will do as civic leaders and I am so inspired by how involved everyone is in their community.”
Although the Civics Unplugged Fellowship program is only in its second year, administrators at Hastings-on-Hudson were quick to provide Hastings students with the opportunity to become fellows and enhance their education.

“I thought it was a wonderful chance for students to be actively engaged in leadership activities and to think about their civic engagement,” said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Melissa Syzmanski. “The organization is focused on promoting democracy and thinking about how students can take action and make change.”

The eight students will take time each week to learn self-improvement techniques, communication skills and problem solving as well as practical advice on civic leadership.

“I think young people really need to get involved because it's our world we are going to end up living in,” said sophomore Isabella DePreist-Sullivan, who had her first foray in politics this past summer working on the Westchester County District Attorney’s campaign.

“I want to know where to go from here.”

The fellowship culminates in a “Civics 2030 Pledge,” a personal 10-year plan the students will follow to develop as civic leaders over the course of the next decade.

“Becoming a fellow is a small part of how I am working to help my community and the world,” said Herbstman. “This is the beginning of many projects for me, and I can't wait to be a leader of tomorrow through the work I put in today.”

Sophomore Isabelle Aiken said, “I plan to go to law school in Washington, D.C.,” adding that she hopes to work in Congress or the White House someday. Aiken said she liked the program’s emphasis on youth and activities they could begin now and continue pursuing throughout their lives.

“In light of recent world events, I thought that it was important for me to get involved,” she said. “But, being a kid really limits the scope of what I can do. I knew the program was led by young people, so I really felt like I had my place there.”

The fellows will follow the program from orientation to commencement, which takes place in July.

“With this program, I can have a better understanding and develop my own opinions about what went wrong, and how things need to change,” said freshman Bianca Arnon.

The fact that Hastings-on-Hudson had the largest number of accepted applicants to the program wasn’t a coincidence.

“I think it speaks volumes that we had so many students interested,” said Syzmanski. “That we, as a system, are helping to create this idea for students that they can lead, they can support, and they can do it in a variety of different ways. We want them to know their work is of value beyond their homes, beyond their classrooms, beyond their school, beyond the district. They can take action in the world.”

The full list of students accepted into the Civics Unplugged Fellowship program is:

  • Isabelle Aiken
  • Bianca Arnon
  • Isabella DePreist-Sullivan
  • Marin Diz
  • Bee Herbstman
  • Kaylee Oppenheimer
  • Benjamin Seto Glick
  • Liam Shanley