Teen's Pot Project Fulfills Graduation Requirement

Teen's Pot Project Fulfills Graduation Requirement
Posted by FoM on July 01, 2000 at 09:36:08 PT
By Sheila Hotchkin, Associated Press
Source: Austin American-Statesman
Maryland requires all public high school students to do volunteer work to graduate. How those students donate their time is largely left up to them. So 18-year-old Scarlett Swerdlow decided to work for a cause she fully supports: legalizing marijuana. The Walter Johnson High School senior got permission from her school last semester to fulfill her service requirement by doing clerical work and research for the Marijuana Policy Project. 
"I think there's definitely irony, but it's good," Swerdlow said. "I think it's important that students and teachers realize prohibition is really harmful." Swerdlow was later joined at the project's Washington office by a classmate, 17-year-old Keely Owens. The marijuana project's communications director, Chuck Thomas, couldn't be happier. "Now that Scarlett has jumped through the hoops herself and gotten us approved as an allowable organization, we think it will be much easier to reach hundreds of students in Montgomery County, if not thousands of students nationwide," Thomas said. The project says it now plans to seek volunteers from other public high schools. "It's a win-win situation because either we get the volunteer help or we sue the schools and get the attention," Thomas said. Kathy McGuire, an official for the Montgomery County Public Schools, said the project isn't on the district's list of approved organizations. That means school officials and a parent must approve it for each student. "It may be something that is not my cup of tea, or what I think the kids should be doing," McGuire said. "But the parents have signed off on it." Swerdlow's mother, Duchy Trachtenberg, said her daughter was probably the perfect student to blaze this particular trail. The teen-ager ranked in the top 5 percent of her class, and both she and Owens were National Merit commended scholars. "It was somewhat controversial, but she clearly believed in it," said Trachtenberg, a social worker who counsels adolescents. "I think it took a lot of courage, and I think it's an educational opportunity." At least a hundred school districts nationwide have some form of service learning requirement. Swerdlow and Owens aren't the first students to stretch the requirement's boundaries by donating their time to advocating a controversial topic. Several years ago, some Maryland students met their service learning requirement by joining a group that lobbies against service learning requirements. Bethesda, Md. Published: Saturday, July 1, 2000  Copyright: The Austin American-StatesmanRelated Articles & Web Site:Marijuana Policy Project: http://www.mpp.orgHigh School Volunteers Go To Pot Volunteer on Burning Issue 
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