Hazleton Standard Speaker
Learning about civics and American government from a textbook is one way for students to explore the rights and duties of citizenship in government.
Having a high-ranking state official visit the classroom to talk about government and the importance of citizen involvement could make for a more unforgettable lesson.
Students at Panther Valley High School had the memorable experience of an hour-long conversation with Carol Aichele, Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth, who traveled to the Lansford school Thursday to interact with a civics class there.
“I’m going around to high schools in Pennsylvania to encourage students to register to vote and become part of the process,” Aichele said to the two dozen senior class members who met with her in a high school instruction room.
“How many of you are 18 years old?” Aichele asked.
About eight students raised their hands.
“How many of you are registered to vote?” she continued.
All but two of the raised hands went down.
Aichele urged every 18-year-old to register to vote in the April 24 primary election and the Nov. 6 presidential election.
In Pennsylvania, a potential voter must be at least 18 years of age on or before the day of the next election.
“Even if you are going to turn 18 on April 23, you can register in advance of your birthday,” Aichele explained.
Prior to her nomination in January 2011 by Gov. Tom Corbett to serve in the office of Secretary of the Commonwealth, Aichele said she served elected positions on the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District board of education, as county controller, and on the board of county commissioners, all in Chester County.
Explaining the importance of every vote, Aichele said she won one of those elections by two votes.
She explained the duties of her current office, which, in addition to administering the state’s electoral process and maintaining corporate filings, includes licensing more than 800,000 business, health and real estate professionals.
“From pediatricians and architects to barber shops, beauty salons and funeral parlors, in Pennsylvania, they all have to be licensed. And all those licenses are investigated, issued and enforced by the office of Secretary of the Commonwealth,” Aichele said.
The office is also charged with maintaining registration and financial information for the thousands of charities that solicit contributions from citizens os Pennsylvania.
“When something happens like a tsunami or September 11, charities pop up and collect money from good people who want to contribute. But some of those are not legitimate charities. Some have evil intent and they put the money in their own pocket,” Aichele said, adding that comprehensive information on charity legitimacy is available on her office’s website at www.dos.state.pa.us.
The office also oversees professional boxing, wrestling and mixed martial arts in Pennsylvania.
A former school teacher, Aichele said her visit to Panther Valley is part of “a commitment I made years ago to educate school children.”
The school’s principal, Joseph Gunnels, said the experience was invaluable.
“I wish it could happen more frequently, that our kids could have close proximity to representatives of state-level government. It’s a valuable experience,” Gunnels said.