CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The first “Civics Education: Now More Than Ever” event was educating students and adults alike on the importance of civics and practicing good citizenship in today’s society.

The event, hosted by the West Virginia Civics Coalition was held at the State Culture Center Monday and it was a way to kick-off and celebrate Civic Learning Week, March 11- March 15.

The inaugural civics event featured a number of guest speakers including Chief Justice Tim Armstead, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger, and West Virginia Secretary of State and Republican gubernatorial candidate Mac Warner.

They all spoke about the importance behind the rights of voting and other steps people can take to be good American and West Virginia citizens, as well as how they got inspired to serve the people in the state.

Armstead was the first to speak Monday. He is the Chief Justice for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court that hears appeals of decisions over all matters in the Intermediate Court of Appeals, among various circuit court appeals regarding criminal matters and cases requiring the interpretation of laws from the West Virginia and U.S. constitutions.

Armstead said supreme court judges not only take seriously the need to do their jobs within the utmost accordance to the law, but they also like to focus their efforts on inspiring young people toward a career in serving the people and the law, as well.

“We think it’s important to thank our teachers each day in the classrooms who are teaching civics to our students, and so it was important for us to be here today and a pleasure for us to share some of our background with the students and hopefully inspire them to serve, as well,” he said.

However, he added that even if a person doesn’t go into public service, civics is still an important subject for everyone to learn and put into practice as it looks into what it means behind holding American citizenship and the various duties that come with it.

“I think it’s important that they recognize the history of our country, the sacrifices that have been made to be where we are today, the duties they have as citizens to vote, to serve on juries, and to understand the protections they have under our constitution,” said Armstead.

Voting machines

The event also featured voting machines that allowed for hands-on learning into the voting process, a scavenger hunt helping people learn more about the various constitutional amendments in a fun way, and the portrayal of West Virginia native and former U.S. Senator Jennings Randolph, who was the eleven-time sponsor of the amendment of the constitution granting citizens between 18 and 21 the right to vote.

Other speakers during Monday’s event were to include Tanya Baldwin and Erika Klose from the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Education Association’s Dale Lee, and with the American Federation of Teachers for West Virginia, Fred Albert.

Ella Waters, a senior at Hedgesville High School in Berkley County, and Michael Niggemyer, a junior at Grafton High School in Taylor County were also going to be speaking at the event representing the WV Youth Leadership Association.

Both Waters and Niggemyer said the event was very inspiring to them as they plan to go into a public service position one day, and they both agreed that it was good to hear from those already serving.

“Hearing their experiences and any advice I can get from them, it’s really cool to see this morning,” Waters said.

“It’s just a really great honor to hear from some of our government officials now and how they’ve helped their communities, how they perceive their jobs and some of their experiences, and how they really see from us, an inspiration from us, that’s really important because it makes us feel like we’re seen more,” said Niggemyer.

Waters was speaking as the West Virginia Youth Governor for the event. She said she aspires to start out in the senate one day and eventually work her way up to governor.

Niggemyer said he either plans to sit in a seat in House of Delegates or state Senate, but wants to eventually be a foreign diplomat and serve the country from overseas.

Waters said she thinks civics is important, because, it affects everyone on the most basic of levels.

“What our students are eating for lunch, fundamental things like that are all dependent on our voting, our advocacy and your influence in the government, as a whole, so any civics engagement that anyone does is bettering our state and our country and I think that’s very empowering,” said Waters.

Niggemyer said it also allows the people to make decisions that lead to the betterment of their communities.

“I just think that the majority of people in the world would want their community to be the best place it can be, and civics allows them to do that, voting and deciding what happens in your community is a great opportunity that we have through our U.S Constitution that has been improved and upgraded throughout the years with amendments that allows all of the people of the United States to vote,” said Niggemyer.

The West Virginia Civics Coalition states that it’s their goal to strengthen K-12 civic education in schools, as well as seek to make improvements to policies and practices surrounding civic learning.