Centre County’s ‘Constitution Village’ filled with history, food, music and more

BELLEFONTE — Be a U.S. Senator for five minutes and vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court under the 17th Amendment. Hear the history of the 19th Amendment from two area experts. Learn about Naval history.

All this and more is scheduled for a celebration of the 231st birthday of the U.S. Constitution.

A nationally designated day (Sept. 17 is the official “birthday”) the Constitution Day celebration is set for Sunday, Sept. 16, from 1 to 6 p.m., at Grange Park, Gate 1, in Centre Hall.

A “Constitution Village” will feature 40+ exhibitors to talk about the Constitution, the Preamble, its history and amendments as well as food trucks, live music, and of course, a birthday cake.

“Our mission has been from day one to both educate and entertain,” said Keith Bierly, president of Constitution Day Centre Hall, Inc., a nonprofit. “People learn better if they’re having fun.”

Bierly, Vice President – Community Affairs Vicki Fong, Secretary Margie Swoboda, Treasurer Lisa Shaffer, board members Nancy Chiswick, Linda Gall, and Greg Ferro visited the Centre County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday in support of a proclamation declaring Sept. 16 Constitution Day Centre Celebration.

“This is a much-needed event,” said Ferro, a presidential and Constitutional historian and scholar. “The Declaration of Independence is fine, but on a daily basis, we live by the Constitution. It’s the only thing that connects all Americans.”

With free speech and press freedom often under attack, the First Amendment tent offers pathways for discussion, says Fong.

” I think the real goal is we’re talking about the Constitution, we’re reading news electronically and in print. But this is a real opportunity to talk with your neighbors, friends, people who live in our community and in Central Pennsylvania and really share ideas, civilly, and realize we have more in common than we know. And I think that is true democracy,” Fong said. “And that’s what we want to support.”

Swoboda emphasized the Constitution Village is an educational / interactive kind of day, for all ages.

“Our goal is to have everyone leave having learned three new things about civics, about history, about the Constitution,” she said.

Bierly thanked the Commissioners for agreeing to participate in the village and welcoming the public, noting that the village itself is 50 percent larger this year thanks to a grant from the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We think our village is a unique concept,” Bierly said. “I haven’t seen anything this size other than maybe in Philadelphia.

Commissioner Steven Dershem agreed the event presents an opportunity for civil discourse.

“This is the one document that binds us all together as a nation and I think it’s an opportunity for us to share some of those commonalities and really make some great strides locally of bringing that communication a little bit clearer and a bit louder for everybody involved,” he said.

In other business, the board hosted Vern Squier and Jennifer Myers, president and vice president respectively, Chamber of Business and Industry Centre County, who announced the launch of a workforce initiative called CentreREADY.

With collaboration from educational institutions in the county – public five public school districts and two career technical institutions – CentreREADY is in response to survey results from area employers reporting that a weak labor force presents the greatest challenge to their success.

“We asked employers what are the top five attributes they want to see in an employee,” Myers said, adding that most employers offered more than five. “We settled on six [attributes] and came up with a program.”

Core skills and technical skills prevailed – everything from showing up to work on time to basic computer literacy.

An event on Wednesday saw all education partners signing a workforce development Memorandum of Understanding. As part of the agreement, the educational institutions will provide offerings and workforce settings that focus on the six specific core attributes.

Squier said students who earn the CentreREADY designation will signal to employers they have the CBICC’s seal of approval – essentially, a certification saying they are job force ready with competency in core attributes employers desire.

Meetings over the summer helped build the program. Speaking at board meeting on Aug. 15, Bellefonte Area School District Michelle Saylor said she planned to consult with high school Principal Michael Fedisson, guidance counselor Shawn Barbrow and Assistant Superintendent Tammie Burnaford.

She said she felt it could complement existing plans.

“A lot of us felt very strongly we should align with our 339 [counseling] plan,” she told the board.

For students, it signals an extra – desired – credential to potential employers.

“What it will do is allow [students] to get certificate of CentreREADY and for employers shows they have the skills for the labor force,” she said.

For more information on CentreREADY, see http://www.cbicc.org/centreready.html

The county’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 10 a.m. 420 Holmes St.

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