The Wheat Ridge Optimist Club realizes that although most youths today rely on technology devices for research and other academic needs, there’s still value in having a book in hand.
That’s why the club continues to put pocket-sized books of the United States Constitution — complete with the Bill of Rights, other amendments and Declaration of Independence — in the hands of local students.
The students enjoy having their own, personal book that they can mark up with highlighters and write notes in, said Andy McKean, a member of the Wheat Ridge Optimist Club.
“And they particularly love the flash cards,” McKean added.
The club’s efforts to get students involved with the constitution began about 15 years ago when fifth-graders, called Liberty Day Kids, would visit Denver International Airport and local post offices to engage people in conversation about the U.S. Constitution.
The current form of the program started about seven years ago. It entails delivering the books to each of Bill Gold’s eighth-grade social studies students at Everitt Middle School in Wheat Ridge.
This year, 250 students received the books.
Gold incorporates the use of the book throughout the school year in his classroom. For example, he will have students simulate scenario, such as getting a bill passed in the legislature, to help them understand how the American government operates under the constitution and its amendments.
“The ultimate goal, as a teacher,” Gold said, “is to teach the students to become good citizens (and) participate in the American government system.”
This includes knowing how to contact legislators, understanding the functions of government and voting, among other constitutional rights, Gold added.
In addition to the eighth-grade book delivery, this year, the club also paid for the bus that took about 50 fifth-graders who attend Kullerstrand Elementary School on a field trip to the Colorado State Capitol in downtown Denver on Feb. 27.
Even Wheat Ridge Mayor Bud Starker got involved this year — he was instrumental in getting 600 of the pocket-sized U.S. Constitution handbooks to students at Wheat Ridge High School.
“These books provide students with valuable information about the Bill of Rights and our Constitution,” Starker said. “It will be these leaders of tomorrow that will guard our personal freedoms and ensure that our country continues to flourish under the documents set forth by our founding fathers.”
The Wheat Ridge Optimist Club focuses its efforts on fifth-graders, eighth-graders and high schoolers to compliment the state curriculum as to when the students study the Constitution.
“The group (members of the Optimist Club) is very patriotic,” McKean said. And “we know funding is tight at schools. We like the idea of getting the founding documents to the students as a supplement to their studies.”
Wheat Ridge Optimist Club member Dan Ryan added that the students get especially excited about quizzing the adults in their life on the Constitution.
“They feel they have an edge by knowing the answers ahead of time,” Ryan said. “I come from a family of teachers, so I know this is really special for the kids.”
The club is happy it can support both the teachers and the students’ learning, said Carma Lytle, a member of the Wheat Ridge Optimist Club.
One of the slogans of the Optimist International club is “bringing out the best in our youth, our communities and ourselves,” Lytle said. “We believe this kind of program supports the youth to become better citizens and expands their horizons.”