Editor’s Note: At the Table is an international exchange program that connects high school students in Philadelphia and Riga. The program, undertaken by the National Constitution Center in collaboration with the National History Museum of Latvia, will culminate in two service projects and a collaborative documentary film about civic engagement.
For those of you following the At the Table project, you may have found yourself wondering exactly why the project is called, “At the Table.” Most of us use tables every day. We sit at them to do our work. We gather around them to have meetings. We place our cocktails on them at holiday parties. They are a necessary, and often overlooked piece of furniture.
But tables are far from mundane; extraordinary things happen around them. Negotiations are made, treaties are signed, prayers are said and meals are taken at them. And it’s the latter that inspired the title for our Latvia/U.S partnership.
According to the Pennsylvania Civic Health Index, published in 2010, the more often families dine together, the more likely it is that they are civically engaged. They not only discuss their days at school and work, but they discuss what’s happening in the world, and it’s those conversations that inspire families to volunteer and become active citizens.
That is the aim of the At the Table project–that students in both Philadelphia and Riga will have dinner (Sunday Suppers) in 3 neighborhoods of their choosing within their respective cities. They will dine with members of each community–teachers, students, block captains and organizers to find out about the issues they are facing, and figure out ways to help.
It is these conversations that will provide the inspiration for the students’ service projects. They will hear first-hand about the need in these communities and will work together to address them. When the students travel to each other’s countries, they will help their international partners execute their service project in their hometown.
Next week, stay tuned to hear which neighborhoods the Philadelphia students have identified for their Sunday Suppers!
At the Table: Connecting Culture, Conversation and Service in Latvia and the U.S. was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in collaboration with American Association of Museums. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State.