One of the unsung gems of the Ashbrook Center is the Junior Ashbrook Scholar program for eighth-grade students from the nearby Ashland Middle School. These students—just thirteen and fourteen years old—have the unique opportunity to study American history at the college level with Ashbrook faculty. During the school year, they come to the Ashbrook Center to learn about America by discussing the Declaration of Independence and other primary documents from our history.
At the end of the school year, the Jr. Scholars visit Ohio’s capital city, Columbus. The students see how American government—with its unique federalism, checks and balances, and separation of powers—is designed to uphold the principles espoused at the Founding. More importantly, students see that American government is self-government, and that it only works when citizens are educated and engaged.
During this year’s trip to Columbus, twenty Jr. Scholars explored the homes, history, and function of the Ohio Supreme Court and the Ohio Legislature. At the Supreme Court, they sat in the main Courtroom where justices hear oral arguments and learned about the Court’s history and role. Students also explored the Court’s interactive museum and participated in a mock trial. Along the way, they learned more about Ohio’s story, as told in the beautiful artwork that adorns the building.
Next, they visited the Ohio Statehouse, which was completed in 1861 and is the eighth oldest working capitol building in the nation. The Statehouse was abuzz with activity; several committees were meeting, and both the Senate and House of Representatives were in session. The Jr. Scholars toured the historic building, stopping at the place where then-candidate Abraham Lincoln delivered an address about slavery in 1859. The group met several elected officials, including their own representatives, Representative Darrell Kick and Senate President Larry Obhof. Representative Kick invited them to the floor of the House Chamber, where they had their photo taken with him.
While at the Statehouse, the Jr. Scholars also met an Ashbrook Scholar alumnus and a Jr. Ashbrook Scholar alumnus who work there as Legislative Aides. Both offered the students a glimpse into the kinds of opportunities that await those with an Ashbrook education.