ACC’s Constitution Exhibit
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ACC’s Constitution Exhibit

October 10, 2019

The state archives in Raleigh had never released
North Carolina’s 1789 hand-written copy of the U.S. Constitution for travel exhibition. Until Sept. 16, 2016. At Alamance Community College. On that day, ACC celebrated Constitution Day. It partnered with the State Archives to exhibit
our Constitution — and educate visitors about North Carolina’s role in what followed: the
United States of America. Our College’s 18-month journey in securing
that privileged exhibition was exciting news in and of itself. But the College’s effort goes deeper. Part of the College’s strategic plan is to
enhance community engagement, to increase outreach and to �tell our story� in different
ways. And as part of that, the College seeks to
foster college-going aspirations among Alamance County school children. So how do we engage students and inspire their
creativity? How do we interest them about founding fathers
and founding principles? Alamance Community College’s exhibition of
historic parchment and Constitution Day celebration was the foundation for a unique educational
and marketing project. The project was meant to draw middle and high
school students to our campus and introduce them to what awaits through post-secondary
education. The catalyst for engagement? A poster-board contest with $1,200 in prize
money. With lots of ribbons and certificates. And with lots of college-branded swag. The College’s contest goal? Recognize as many middle and high school students
as possible. First we divide entries by school level. Next, we create three themed-categories: North
Carolina Founding Fathers; Ratification of the Constitution in North Carolina; and The
Bill of Rights Role of North Carolina. We augment 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place recognitions
with these: The Historian’s Choice, The President’s Choice and the Dean’s Choice. Next, we leverage college clubs, creating
the Phi Theta Kappa Choice, the Sigma Psi Choice, and the Rotaract Choice. This educational end-game has two marketing
goals: Drive visitation to the Constitution exhibit and boost attendance from young students,
siblings and parents at our evening awards ceremony. There, prizes would be awarded and the audience
could view winning poster boards on display in the Wallace Gee Building. A week before the exhibit, more than 250 poster
boards arrived on campus. The creativity displayed challenged our judges. History instructors, history students and
graphic designers culled the entries to award prizes. Behind the scenes, the College’s Print Center
was busy designing, printing, and assembling promotional posters, flyers, and certificates
� as well as an 8-page �Released from the Archives� exhibit brochure, explaining
the road to ratification and the role of North Carolina leaders in 1789. The College leveraged the brochure to promote
Career and College Promise � the tuition-free dual-enrollment for high school students. The first school buses arrived before the
10 a.m. opening. And buses kept coming, arriving through lunch. The busses snaked through the front parking
lot all the way out to Jimmie Kerr Road. Anticipating long waiting lines and an impatient,
excitable young audience � college history instructors, history club students, and re-enactors
in period costume from the Alamance Battleground Historic Site work the line. Young guests are engaged and entertained with
fun quizzes about the Constitution and life in North Carolina in the 1780s. Patriotic bracelets and key chains are distributed
as door prizes. Red, white and blue cootie catchers – each
hiding information about our Bill of Rights protections � are distributed. Cootie catchers. The classics never die. Throughout the day, the buses and students
arrive, many from Title 1 schools that don’t have the resources for a Raleigh field trip. As hundreds of young students stream through
our auditorium in small groups, staff from the state archives patiently explain the significance
and history of the Constitution, plus two Amendments: the 19th Amendment giving women
the right the vote and the 26th, giving 18-year-olds the right to vote. On the second floor of main campus, where
the poster boards are hanging, college student clubs hold their annual Register-To-Vote drive. Today, they register more students in four
hours than during their usual two-week drive. An exhibition of the Constitution a floor
above may be priming the pump. But a partnership with Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
probably doesn’t hurt either. Late afternoon, as school crowds thin, the
public arrives to visit the documents. What strikes most is this: North Carolina
was among the LAST states to ratify the Constitution. North Carolina leaders in the 1780s demanded
a Bill of Rights clearly delineating protections. After the historical documents are carefully
sealed and packed and headed back to Raleigh, North Carolina’s chief archivist � Sarah
Koontz – remains for the poster board ceremony to help recognize winning entrants. As ribbons, certificates, cash awards and
novelties are awarded, it’s hard to tell who is swelling with more pride: The students
recognized – or their families alongside in a standing room auditorium. Alamance Community College initially planned
for 600 public, private, charter and homeschool students on campus. Two days before the event, the RSVP list grew
to 850. On September 16, ACC’s event drew more than
more than 1,450 middle and high school students to campus. In all, the Constitution and ACC hosted 2,000
guests � many first-time visitors to our College campus and many of them potential
first-generation college goers. We the people of the United States, in order
to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,
provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the
blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. #

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