Stratford High School

Stratford STEM Magnet High Virtual Tour

Take a tour of Stratford STEM Magnet High School. Learn more about the Academies at Stratford and what learning looks like in Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Students Work to Improve Bike Safety over Summer Break

Internships give students the opportunity to see the realities of a profession or industry and the connections between learning and the real world. Delaine Wendling, a lead teachers from Stratford STEM Magnet High School‘s Academy of Science and Engineering,  had students who participated in an internship this summer though the Institute for Software Integrated Systems at Vanderbilt University.  In this post, Delaine write about her perceptions of the internship and the impact it had on her students.

The new school year looms just around the corner promising new interactions, knowledge, and growth. Oh yes, and impressive moments. My students never fail to impress me, whether it’s through their ability to talk their way out of a consequence or their innovative solutions to different problems. Today, my students delivered; and they delivered at a whole new level. The halls have yet to be roamed and the dust has just been wiped off of my desk yet my students have already blown my socks off. Students from Hume-Fogg, MLK, and, our very own, Stratford STEM High School participated in an internship at ISIS (Institute for Software Integrated Systems), a research organization of the school of engineering at Vanderbilt, this summer.

The students were challenged to improve a bike’s safety in a user friendly way. The students launched head first into the task and came out the other side with an informational and entertaining presentation to the public of their inventive new products. These included wheel lights that have the potential to be customizable, a brake light and turn signals, and a Graphical User Interface (GUI) that can track and display various metrics- i.e. speed, distance, calories burned, etc. All of these features are controlled by a computer attached to the bike. Developed safety features can all be sold separately, allowing a potential customer to pick and choose what s/he feels is important to her/him. Furthermore, their software is open source, allowing the program-savvy consumers to expand upon the existing framework and add their own features.

During the presentation, the students were transparent about their struggles and how they overcame them while creating their bike products. Students came into the internship with a multitude of experiences and skills amongst them. Specifically and thanks to our engineering program, Stratford STEM students brought the ability to work with CAD software (Computer-Aided Design) and 3-D printing. Throughout the internship, the students sought the expertise and advice of professors, graduate students, undergraduates, and each other to develop bike safety tools.  In addition, students self-taught, using the vast resources of the internet, the majority of the material needed to progress. They learned new, and improved familiar, skills including: collaboration, communication/presentation, problem solving, programming, etc. through the summer internship. Their intense motivation to learn came from the ownership they felt, their interest, and the relevance of the project, to name a few. This is the heart of Project Based Learning (PBL). The presentation I saw today further confirmed the importance of PBL to a students’ love for learning and the development of 21st century citizens. Stratford is no stranger to PBL and is actually becoming a MNPS PBL demonstration school this upcoming school year. So, stay tuned for the amazing projects our students will be engaged in throughout the year as well as the new bike safety products that will be hitting the market soon??!!

See more information here.


Student Summer Plans: Taking College Classes and Building Bridges

A student at Stratford STEM Magnet High School in the Academy of Science and Engineering  had the opportunity to attend the National Summer Transportation Institute at Tennessee State University.



Lt. Col. John L. Hudson, Commander of the Nashville District talks with students attending the National Summer Transportation Institute program on a variety of engineering classes and current district projects during a lecture on the campus of Tennessee State University. (Photo by Mark Rankin)

This summer, I attended a pre-college program known as the National Summer Transportation Institute, or NSTI, at Tennessee State University. The program focused on the various majors in engineering. I stayed on campus for a month and attended three classes: Engineering 101, Math, and English/ Critical Thinking. The information that was given in a college setting changed my perspective on engineering. Previously, I thought engineering was a simple career that anyone can do, but after attending the program I learned it’s a very complex career that requires high attention to detail and strong mathematical skills.

Participating in the National Summer Transportation Institute taught me to think about decisions more analytically. Analytical thinking is all about problem solving. In order to find a solution to a problem, I break the situation down into smaller parts and reach my answers through facts and logic. The groups at NSTI were assigned to design and construct a bridge. First, we drew a sketch of what we wanted the bridge to look like, including the bridge’s height, width, and length. Next, we got a hold of the materials. We used Styrofoam for the roads, two wooden pillars, a wooden plank for the base, two Styrofoam circles, and nylon strings for the suspension. Keeping the bridge suspended and leveled were our biggest challenges. We placed the circles on top of the pillars giving it the name, “Halo Bridge.” Overall, the program was beneficial to my education and I had a great time!



CSI: Stratford STEM Magnet High School

Strong relationships with local academy partners is the key to building effective business engagement in our high schools. The Academies of Nashville provide students with meaningful, hands-on learning in context through unique partnerships with local businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. The Teacher Team Externship Program gives teachers an opportunity to have a real-world professional experience at a host organization to develop a project-based curriculum that gives students industry exposure and applied learning. Teachers from Stratford STEM Magnet High School had the opportunity to have an externship with their business partner, the Metro Nashville Police Department. 


Untitled As Criminal Justice students at Stratford learn, “M.O.M.” is the acronym for MOTIVE, OPPORTUNITY and MEANS“M.O.M.” is a common formula used in criminal investigations, forensic analysis of evidence, and investigative case management.

In this case, the MOTIVE of our externship was to allow the Stratford staff to gain a real world hands on experience that would enable them to collaborate on the development of a project based learning model that will be implemented on a school-wide basis during for the school year.

In this case, the OPPORTUNITY existed because the Metro Nashville Police Department is a strong business partner with Stratford and a valuable supporter of its extensive Criminal Justice program, especially the Student Criminal Justice Cadet Corps.  Certainly, this unique opportunity would not have been possible without the guidance and support of Stratford STEM Magnet School Resource Officer McCormick, East Precinct Commander Imhof, and MNPS Public Information Manager, Don Aaron.

In this case, the MEANS was accomplished by imbedding the Stratford staff at the Police Training Academy, the Forensic Laboratory, and the Executive Management COMSTAT meeting.  This intense participation enabled the teachers and managers to better understand the best ways to prepare Stratford STEM Magnet High School students for a career in criminal justice, corrections, and law.

Untitled 2 Highlights at the Training Academy consisted of learning how the Police serve our community with pride and professionalism.  A detailed overview of their hiring process including qualifications, experience, and education requirements.  This will assist the Stratford staff in identifying the best goals and objectives for the students, and what is realistically required to be competitive in a criminal justice career.  A briefing of the student internship program which provides an opportunity to observe and work in various units of the police department such as Records Division, Identification Unit, Secondary Employment Unit, Domestic Violence Unit, Criminal Investigations Division, Case Preparation Division etc. Students will learn about the departments staffing, mission, activities, records, and services.  In addition, the Stratford staff received an extensive tour of the training facilities, K-9, defensive driving, aviation, and firearms programs.

Highlights at the Forensic Laboratory consisted of tours of the DNA Serology Unit, Drug Identification Unit, Latent Finger Print Unit, Firearms Unit, Tool Mark Unit, and Toxicology Unit. A detailed briefing about how the forensic analysis of evidence is critical to the successful identification and prosecution of criminals. The Stratford staff was especially interested in how the evidence analysis report is documented and how it is used during the judicial process. The Stratford staff learned that they must prepare their students to master attention to detail, provide concise documentation, observe strict laboratory protocol, exhibit dedication to duty, and service to community.

Untitled 3 Highlights of the Executive Management Command staff consisted of attending and observing an Executive Briefing on Computer Statistics aka Compstat, an effective, adaptable and flexible management model or paradigm utilized by Metro Police Command. Compstat has been applied with great success in controlling crime and disorder.

Metro Students Make Bicycle Models with High-Tech Tools

Originally posted on The Tennesseean by Jennifer Johnston

Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools has joined with the Vanderbilt Center for Nashville Studies and Peabody College to create a platform to provide detailed, reliable and recurring information about the commitment of major employers to the public school system. This is the latest installment in a series that tells the story of collaborative involvement between members of the Vanderbilt community and local public schools.


Thirteen Nashville public high school students are spending their summer mornings on the Vanderbilt campus building bicycle models using software tools developed to revolutionize the manufacturing of military vehicles.

The internship project, now in its second year, is facilitated by Brandon Knight and his brother, Justin. Program coordinators for separate projects at Vanderbilt’s Institute for Software Integrated Systems (ISIS), the siblings created a bike shop while growing up in Hartford, Connecticut. They quickly realized tools created at Vanderbilt could be used to excite teen-agers about computer modelling concepts.

Before joining the ISIS team, Brandon Knight taught science at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colorado, and worked for a nonprofit on drop-out prevention. He brought that passion for education to his current job at Vanderbilt.

Under Brandon’s guidance, the interns are working in teams using modeling tools to develop new concepts, much like the engineers who developed the new suite of software as part of a large-scale effort to democratize the vehicle design process and significantly cut design time. The software, which ISIS created for the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, is open source, meaning it is available for free.

The software tools were developed as part of the Automated Vehicle Make (AVM) project in an ambitious effort to totally revamp the way the Department of Defense supplies vehicles to the nation’s troops. Sandeep Neema and Ted Bapty, senior research scientists at ISIS, are principal investigators. Both are also research associate professors of electrical engineering and computer science at Vanderbilt.

By having the students use them to invent bike gadgets, we get valuable feedback on how designers at all levels use the tools.”“While these tools are designed to help build large, complex cyber-physical systems, they also work for smaller-scale projects,” Bapty said. “By having the students use them to invent bike gadgets, we get valuable feedback on how designers at all levels use the tools.”

AVM has an educational component that includes an undergraduate design competition, during which student participants from Vanderbilt worked in a School of Engineering lab with Tom Withrow, assistant professor of the practice of mechanical engineering. Withrow provided input for the start of the summer high school program as well.

The 13 interns hail from Hume-Fogg, Martin Luther King and Stratford high schools in Nashville. The part-time internships are unpaid this summer, but Knight said he hopes to seek possible funding sources.

The ultimate goal of the internship, now in its second year, is to encourage a growing pool of high-tech talent in Nashville that would ultimately attract industry to the area and plant the seeds for young entrepreneurs interested in start-ups.

“We need to re-capture the imagination of the best high school students early on with the excitement and beauty of engineering design,” said ISIS Director Janos Sztipanovits, E. Bronson Ingram Professor of Engineering. ”What could be a better way for this than turning them into makers, challenging them with creating new things and empowering them with engineering tools that help them to freely innovate?”

Founded in 1998 with just 10 researchers, ISIS now has a cadre of more than 180 faculty, staff, students and interns involved in more than 60 active projects. ISIS is a key national player in an effort to design the software-integrated systems that have become an integral part of human lives today – in consumer appliances, vehicles, planes, hospitals, schools, design shops, factories, space systems and energy.

Contact Brandon Knight at for more information about the internship program, including details about a planned presentation of the interns’ projects on Aug. 1.

Teachers Working Alongside Cancer Researchers

Strong relationships with local academy partners is the key to building effective business engagement in our high schools. The Academies of Nashville provide students with meaningful, hands-on learning in context through unique partnerships with local businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. The Teacher Team Externship Program gives teachers an opportunity to have a real-world professional experience at a host organization to develop a project-based curriculum that gives students industry exposure and applied learning. Teachers from Stratford STEM Magnet High School had the opportunity to have an externship with their business partner, the Diatech Oncology. 

Untitled 2

Upon arriving at Diatech Oncology, a Canadian company new to the United States that offers “the test that tailors your cancer treatment,”  we were greeted by our primary host, Patti Ward.  We were taken to their conference room and provided an introduction to the key players and an overview of the company.  Our team was provided a tour of the facilities and given an overview of laboratory safety procedures.  We were also given an in depth idea of what the company does with cancer cells from its training director, Muhammed. On day two we spent more time in the lab with greater introductions to the technology utilized and the chemicals, incubators, and areas where work is completed.

On our final day we examined how their robot mixes the treatment medications with the cells and then how they view that data through their computers.  We further went through the process of how they examine samples from the time they arrive through all testing and data collection.  The three days were and incredibly interesting and amazing experience for our team.  The information involving the research on cancer cells will be expanded into our PBL units involving the ethics involved with cell research through the study of the 1950’s case of Henrietta Lacks.

Becoming IT Professionals

Strong relationships with local academy partners is the key to building effective business engagement in our high schools. The Academies of Nashville provide students with meaningful, hands-on learning in context through unique partnerships with local businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. The Teacher Team Externship Program gives teachers an opportunity to have a real-world professional experience at a host organization to develop a project-based curriculum that gives students industry exposure and applied learning. Teachers from Stratford STEM Magnet High School had the opportunity to have an externship with their business partner, the Nashville Software School. 


Six Stratford STEM Magnet High School teachers from the Academy of National Safety and Security Technologies computer gaming pathway participated in teacher externship at Nashville Software School where they met with IT professionals from around Nashville.

After talking with numerous business partners, we concluded that 21st century skills are what set students up for success in the interview process. We began backwards planning with these goals in mind:

  • Allow for self-reflection and self-awareness so that students are confident in their ability to sell themselves as competent, capable, and collaborative professionals
  • Give practical experience in real-world situations
  • Provide an opportunity to practice presenting projects during the first semester to prepare for higher-stakes competitions in the second semester (e.g. PBL Expo)
  • Incorporate business partners and community to provide advice and provide authenticity to the roleplaying process

Our Driving Question is “How can we leverage student outcomes with Career and Technical Education work for college and career preparation.” Our Culminating Activity is going to be a mock job fair where students will use a portfolio of class work and projects to interview with “employers” (role-played by business partners, community members, and parents) and graded on a presentation rubric. We are tentatively set for Thursday, December 4th, so that students can demonstrate their work from throughout the first semester.

Students will assemble projects (formative assessments) from the first quarter and develop more projects from the second quarter in order to develop an e-portfolio of sample work to demonstrate collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication. Students will develop a resume and cover letter in order to explain how their experience and artifacts demonstrate each of the 4 Cs of 21st-century skills.

Snail Eggs, Blood Splatter, and ISR: A Typical Summer Day

Strong relationships with local academy partners is the key to building effective business engagement in our high schools. The Academies of Nashville provide students with meaningful, hands-on learning in context through unique partnerships with local businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. The Teacher Team Externship Program gives teachers an opportunity to have a real-world professional experience at a host organization to develop a project-based curriculum that gives students industry exposure and applied learning. Teachers from Stratford STEM Magnet High School had the opportunity to have an externship with their business partner, the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach. 

IMAG0356This fun and fascinating experience began at Isaac Litton Middle School where the teachers learned background information on the program “Scientist in the Classroom.”  This reiterated the importance of bringing real world scientists into the classroom enabling teachers to make the classroom experience more applicable to the real world while at the same time enabling real world scientists to learn skills assisting them in becoming better teachers of their craft.  After this meeting, the teachers met a group of students from Hillsboro High School at Richland Creek to participate in environmental sampling.  Although we weren’t all dressed for outdoor activities, everyone made the best of it; Kathy L. was an expert discoverer of snail eggs.   In addition, the students from Hillsboro were very impressive.  The moment they arrived at the creek, they went to work; it was very clear that these students knew what to do, how to do it, and the importance of documentation.  When we left the creek, the teachers then met at Vanderbilt for an across campus walk in the blazing heat, but it was well worth it.  We had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with instructors and students from the School of Science and Math at Vanderbilt, and this was fantastic.  As students were working on the finishing details of their projects, the teachers were able to ask questions to provide them an opportunity to practice their presentations which were the next day.  Many appreciated this opportunity because they have been working on these projects for months.  Our favorite project was the autonomous robot that sprayed Luminal and detected chemiluminescence.  We finished this day with a discussion panel with Vanderbilt professors and leaders of Interdisciplinary Science and Research, where we discussed trends in science education and how it has changed over time.

IMAG0358The second day was equally exciting as we practiced engaging students in science with “hands on” activities.  Our first activity was making a rocket out of a straw.  Some of us were eager and quick with ideas of how to start while others of us needed the use of NASA and Google.  We then demonstrated the success or failure of our rockets by projecting them at a 45 degree angle through the air.  Next, we participated in various blood splatter activities which included blood splatter with a fan, blood splatter from various heights, blood splatter while walking, and then blood transfer.  The highlight of this activity was the unplanned blood splatter in stabbing. In all of the activities, we documented the size, shape, and characteristics of the blood splatter. Finally, we ended the day with a lesson on human behavior.  We began this activity by choosing between sets of two people who we would like to live beside.  We were given pictures of the person, his/her hobbies, and his/her occupation.  It took about three sets for us to figure out all of the people were famous serial killers.  This was a great day that gave the teachers who aren’t in the Interdisciplinary Science and Research, or ISR, classes an opportunity to really understand ISR, which provided a great foundation for our next day.

The third and fourth day of our externship were spent brainstorming, discussing, and planning the best ways to incorporate a new ISR lesson with a focus on the freshman class.  We began by looking at all of the lesson units for all of the ISR classes, and we decided to offer something unlike the others already available.  We chose a lesson on agricultural science with a focus on growing food for the community.  The students will have an opportunity to plant seeds, grow them, document changes during growth, create graphs, create marketing and business plans, and ultimately sell their produce at Stratford STEM Magnet High School.  This externship was a great experience, and the students at Stratford STEM Magnet are going to love this unit!!

Planning with Partners

Finn Breeland, an Enrollment Management Specialist for the School of Computing and Informatics at Lipscomb University writes about his experience as an Academy Partner and the annual summer planning retreat. 


As a supporter of the Academies of Nashville, I was invited to come and support the Stratford STEM Magnet High School Academy of National Safety and Security Technologies during their end of year planning session today.  As a representative of higher learning, I know how valuable the relationships between businesses and academies can be.  Business partners get to interact with future employees, students, and colleagues while the academy students gain valuable context from the outside world.

At the planning session today, the Stratford crew took some time to get to know us with introductions and a “speed dating” style game where we got a chance to meet all the Stratford teachers and administrators present.  After we had a chance to brainstorm and discuss ways to interact, Ms. Green walked us through the academy mission, goals, and calendar for the 2014-15 school year.

I always enjoy attending these planning sessions because there is nothing more rewarding than investing in our future.  With the work that Stratford is doing to prepare the next generation of computing technologists and security professionals, we have a chance at closing the talent gap in an industry that is critical to our infrastructure.  Watch out for Stratford, and expect big things!

Planning for a New Year

Three days into summer break and teachers from Stratford STEM were back at work today planning for the upcoming school year. The team from the National Safety and Security Technologies Academy met to build on previous successes and plan for future domination. After the necessities of calendar and budget planning, ideas were presented for a large-scale Project Based Learning Event. Try to wait patiently; this event is going to be HUGE! After lunch teachers continued their retreat with our academy partners. We got to know one another and discuss even more ways that the business partners can assist in classroom activities. Together we are looking forward to a fantastic 2014-2015 school year.

Stratford 4

Our Summer Vacation: Planning for Next Year!

Stratford 1The Academy of Science and Engineering (ASE) team at Stratford STEM Magnet High School with business partners, parents, and students gathered for a day of preparation for the 2014-2015 school year. We brainstormed and planned ways to unify and support classes in Biology, English, History, Math, Spanish, and the three pathways: Biotechnology, Engineering, and Science. Consequently, we have our first of four project-based-learning (PBL) lesson plans in place. Each of the disciplines will offer a measurable product for the group PBL, which focuses on careers.

Another exciting result is a unified, succinct mission statement: “The ASE will prepare our students for college or careers in biotechnology, engineering, or science.” This mission statement clarifies our position and unifies our team.

Our group also decided to provide our students with ePortfolio requirements, which will be supported in all grades (9-12). The freshman academy begins the process, teaching students how to write a resume, which is posted to their portfolio. As students progress through high school, they will build upon this humble beginning, finishing their high school years with a professional portfolio to share with potential employers or colleges. Look for more details in the near future.

Stratford 2Stratford has been blessed with business partnerships. These business men and women attended our afternoon planning where they confirmed our mission statement and 2014-2015 goals. In addition, they agreed to host field trips, job-shadowing opportunities, and internships for our students. Other topics included how to connect the business partners to all of our classes through speaker opportunities and workshops, providing unique educational opportunities designed to assist students in choosing a career path and emphasizing 21st century employment skills.

The teachers, business partners, students, and parents were able to spend time questioning each other, one-on-one, regarding the best options for mutual support of our students and improving the Academy of Science and Engineering. This allowed all parties to pursue ways to interact in a more meaningful manner with our students that are efficient and prudent, maximizing student exposure to the professional community and providing esteem and respect for the teacher, the business community and Stratford High School.

Stratford 3We had a great day and are off to an excellent start on the 2014-2015 school year!

Fun with the Sun


Twenty Biotechnology students traveled to Vanderbilt University’s VINSE laboratories on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 for a day in the lab learning about alternative energy and the present need our society, in fact, our world has for developing alternative means of producing electricity.  The lab consisted of making prototype solar cells using blackberry dye to enhance the power output of their cell.

The students were engaged in a friendly competition to convert photons (light energy) into current (electrical energy), with the best team winning Vanderbilt t-shirts!  Students mashed blackberries and used ethanol to assist in the filtration process, and used it to extract the dye and adsorb it onto their TiO2 (titanium dioxide) substrate/electrode.  Once this process was complete, students took a ‘stick’ of graphite and prepared a second electrode.  These were ‘sandwiched’ together and iodide was placed between them as an electrolyte to complete the cell.   Finally, each team’s cells were connected to a meter to measure the current output when illuminated with white light.  Every team successfully produced milliamps of current with a solar cell that was approximately 1 inch square!  This was very impressive.  The winning team, Lupe Medina and Alyssa Buckland, produced 6.3 mA!

The day ended with students operating a Scanning Electron Microscope or SEM.  This equipment creates surface images on the nanoscale!


Army Corps of Engineers recognized for Externship of the Year

On May 12, 2014, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual Academy Awards. Teachers, principals, business partners, and community interest groups came together to celebrate the achievements of the 2013-2014 school year and recognize those schools that have made outstanding gains. 

photoThe U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) Nashville District hosted an externship for Stratford STEM Magnet High School teachers during the summer of 2013 to provide them hands-on experience, develop a project-based curriculum, and facilitate applied learning. The teachers visited dams, lakes, and construction sites, and received briefings on scientific and engineering processes. They interactive with subject matter experts and learned how USACE provides collaborative water resource engineering solutions, public-infrassturcture management, and environmental stewardship the Cumberland-Tennessee River systems. They also processed water samples at J. Percy Priest Lake that they later used to develop lessons for a class study of local streams. They engaged teachers, staff, students, and community partners through a school-level, USACE- sponsored science and engineering fair and during the Freshman Academy’s Water Quality Projects. The results of the partnership is that more knowledgeable teachers and stronger curriculum give students industry exposure and connect regional educators with the Middle Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub.

Universal Robotics Named Partner of the Year in Engineering, Manufacturing, and Industrial Technology

On May 12, 2014, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual Academy Awards. Teachers, principals, business partners, and community interest groups came together to celebrate the achievements of the 2013-2014 school year and recognize those schools that have made outstanding gains. 

photoUniversal Robotics is committed to inspiring young adults to pursue careers in engineering. The company’s CEO is the chairman of the Academy of Science and Engineering business advisory council. Company engineers demonstrated the use of sensor-based intelligence at the second annual Engineering Day at Stratford. The company also sponsored ten girls to attend the Tennessee Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Research conference. Students have visited Universal’s laboratory, getting firsthand exposure to a state-of-the-art STEM-related workplace. Universal Robotics sponsors the academy’s FIRST Robotics Team by purchasing equipment and partially funding the effort. The company has also coordinated additional fundraising in the community. As a technology company with ties to Silicon Valley. Universal is uniquely positioned to open the minds of young adults to the fantastic careers that await them in science, technology, engineering, and math.


A Global Reality Check

Blake. S., a student from Stratford STEM Magnet High School took top honors in the Tennessee Bar Association’s 2014 Law Day Essay Contest.  Blake won 1st place and will receive $300 as well as recognition by the Nashville Bar Association. From here his essay will move on to the state competition. 

American Democracy, Voting Rights, and Rules of Law: A Global Reality Check

Never before have we seen a nation so devoted, passionate, and insistent on democracy as the United States of America.  Specifically, democracy is defined as the ability of the people to identify, implement, control their chosen way of life, and government by something as simple but precious as casting one vote.  As President Barack Obama said “When our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it ignores the fact that, in our democracy, government is us.”  In reality, America and its citizens have been the victim of an aggressive attempt to manipulate the election process by overt and covert actions in order to circumvent, disrupt, and dismantle the rule of law and every individual’s right to vote.

Unfortunately, in the history of America, there are clear, specific, and extensive examples of voting disenfranchisement (depriving a person of their right to vote).  Specifically, the intentional effort to circumvent, disrupt, dismantle, and prevent American Indians, African Americans, Women and other minority populations from exercising their voting rights that are allegedly guaranteed in a democracy and by the rule of law.  Suppression of this fundamental right was described by historian Eric Foner as “America’s unfinished revolution”.  I consider this to be an ongoing effort.

For example, disenfranchisement supporters utilize violence, fraud, poll taxation, literacy testing, and questionable constitutional law interpretations to achieve their objective of direct and indirect manipulation of the vote that they want.  The Supreme Court actively undermined federal executive powers to protect black voting rights i.e., refusal to acknowledge the practice of racial discrimination.  Although the practice of racial discrimination still exists, I believe that it has been minimized and that most people recognize this progress.

That being said, per the U.S. Department of Justice, up to 7% of African-Americans have lost the right to vote as a direct result of disenfranchisement, also referred to as the “new Jim Crow laws” sadly leaving these citizens with no representation.  Compare this to the fact that only 1.8% of whites are disenfranchised. How can any common sense logic support a concept that prevents over 5.3 million people from voting because of a felony conviction?  Especially disconcerting is that over 4 million of these have served their sentence and therefore by definition paid their debt to society.

In comparison to other countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans are born with equal rights and preservation of these rights is a guaranteed priority, not only for America but also throughout the world via aggressive nation building.  During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of State and Justice implemented a unique joint Iraqi-Afghan U.S. task force to suppress, investigate and prosecute those responsible for a numerous high-profile murders, assassinations, sectarian violence, and voting disenfranchisement.  Obviously, it was clear that  the Iraqi and Afghan people had no legitimate voting rights, government leaders (dictators) were chosen by power brokers, and this practice was unacceptable to the U.S. Department of State and Justice. The goal of this task force was to promote and preserve the right of all Iraq and Afghan citizens to vote without fear, intimidation, or manipulation. Clearly, an objective of Americas Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) was to implement “Nomocracy” the influence of law in a society or the protection of rights, i.e., Rule of Law. The monetary cost of nation building is extremely high but insignificant when compared to any loss of life, physical, and/or mental injuries to soldiers or civilians. GWOT and the pursuit of global democracy under the rule of law and nation building continue as a priority of America.

This is best explained by Mahatma Gandhi who stated “To safeguard democracy the people must have a keen sense of independence, self respect and their oneness, and should insist upon choosing as their representatives only such person as are good and true”.

In puzzling contrast, the United States strives to promote democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet allows or promotes disenfranchisement at home.  Congress has voted on bills that hinder minorities from exercising their right to vote.  For example, in 2013 the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act which required any changes in voting laws at a state, or local level, to be approved by the federal government. Although enacted to prevent discriminatory voting laws, Texas and North Carolina took advantage of this by implementing voter identification laws to protect against voter fraud.  In reality, just the opposite has been achieved.  Texas allegedly identified approximately 800,000 voters who do not meet the criteria to vote…most of whom is Hispanic.  This is easily explained when it is acknowledged that Hispanics in Texas are 46% to120% more likely not to have an approved identification card. According to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice, one third of women have citizenship documents or identification that does not match their current legal name.  Disenfranchisement activities aggressively continue and expand, affecting not only African Americans but Hispanics and Women as well.

Although not perfect, America strives to promote equality at home and globally by  nation building.  When historians reflect on our nation they are likely to opine that “The constitution of the United States of America was the greatest feat in human history.”  As Abraham Lincoln said “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constititution.” As a high school student, I insist that we do more, let us work together to eliminate disenfranchisement at home and globally to ensure that “everyone” has an equal voice.  I predict that America and the world will be even greater for it.