Students’ civic action projects positively impact peers, community

Goshen High School seniors Reaghan Duval and Andrew Persoon recently took their own personal experiences to help make a difference in their communities as part of their Participation in Government civic action project.

Although their projects were very different, they both had a common goal: to make a positive impact on their peers, neighbors and community.

Girl with long dark hair smiling.
Reaghan Duval wears a “Kickin’ for a Cause” suicide awareness T-shirt she designed and sold to benefit her friend’s memorial scholarship fund.

After losing a friend to suicide when she was an eighth grade student, Reaghan decided to approach her civic action project as an opportunity to channel her experiences dealing with her friend’s death into promoting suicide awareness and prevention to her peers.

Reaghan invited suicide speaker and survivor Ann Marie D’Aliso, who lost her son, Patrick, 16, to suicide in 2004, to speak to her classmates at Goshen High School. D’Aliso serves on the board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, has a Survivor Support Group, and speaks in school assemblies on suicide prevention and recovery. According to Reaghan, the presentation was very touching and eye opening.

“My goal was to raise awareness about suicide and how to identify if someone you know might be struggling,” said Reaghan. “I also wanted to help remove the stigma associated with suicide. I want people to talk about it so they know how to look for signs and where to get help.”

The presentation included a list of resources for suicide prevention, including Text 4 Teens, the national suicide prevention hotline, and introductions to the school’s psychologists and social workers.

In addition to the school-wide presentation, Reaghan also designed and sold T-shirts, raising $430 for her friend’s memorial scholarship fund.

While Reaghan’s civic action project focused mainly on mental health, her classmate, Andrew Persoon, centered his project on his community’s physical safety.

Andrew lives on his family’s dairy farm in Goshen. In recent years, he’s seen a lot more development in the area, resulting in increased traffic. Andrew noticed that the influx of visitors was causing more speeding vehicles to drive through the area, which had a speed limit of 55 miles per hour.

Teenage boy smiling at camera
Andrew Persoon convinced the NYS Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit on CR 31 and CR 37 to help reduce speeding and increase safety in his community.

“It simply became unsafe,” said Andrew. “When I first learned about the civic action project, this was my first thought – to try lower the speed limit near my home.”

First, Andrew spoke to Town of Goshen Supervisor Douglas Bloomfield, who helped walk Andrew through the process. He then attended a work session of the Goshen Town Board, where he presented his case to reduce the speed limit. Board members voted 5-0 to request the reduced speed limit to the Department of Public Works. The county then made an appeal to the New York State Department of Transportation, and based on its review, decided to honor Andrew’s request.

Thanks to Andrew, the speed limit was reduced from 55 MPH to 45 MPH along CR 31 and CR 37 from Howard Court to the CR 12 intersection, and the 35 MPH speed limit along CR 31 was extended to Howard Court from the Police Drive intersection. The new traffic signs were updated approximately two weeks ago.

“I was pretty excited,” said Andrew. “It felt good to help make a positive change. This project definitely opened my eyes to local needs. I’m happy to be able to help my neighbors and community.”