This month students and West Side residents will participate in a variety of activities following the January 16 screening of the documentary film “American Creed" at the West Baton Rouge Museum.

More than a dozen students selected by Associate Superintendent of Instruction Sharon Lair will engage in a scholar-led discussion, listen to immigrant and Civil Rights Movement panel speakers, and participated in a writing workshop along with residents who attend.

The program is made possible by the 'American Creed: Community Conversations," a competitive programming grant awarded to the West Baton Rouge Library by the by the National Endowment for the Humanities through the American Library Association and Citizen Film and the National Writing Project.

In the film "American Creed," Former Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice and Pulitzer Prize historian David Kennedy explore what it means to be an American through the diverse perspectives of citizen-activists and first-generation Stanford students.

After the viewing, students were asked to discuss two questions: “What is the American creed?” and “What does it mean to be an American?”

The American Creed is a set of beliefs, or “taking where you've been to where you're going,” Dr. Courtney Brown of LSU’s National Writing Project, quoted from the film.

The two must be merged because “you cannot get rid of the context” of one’s experiences, she said. With this idea, she said she believes that to be an American is to pave a better future, even if the outcome won't be seen in the same lifetime.

“If we just take it upon ourselves to be the change we want to see the world,” Brown said, she believes Americans will improve their creeds and futures.

Personal involvement, education, and open-mindedness are ways for Americans to accomplish this goal, PAHS senior Allyssa Miller said.

For Andrea Smicker, being an American is personal. Smicker, 54, attended the program that “almost moved [her] to tears” with her 10th-grade daughter Lexi whom she homeschools. Smicker compared the value of her American identity to that of when God and her parents named her.

Before, PAHS senior Emily Nichols said she did not identify as American because of the country’s historical and present injustices, but after watching the film, said she felt a “paradigm shift."

Despite the moral decay she sees, she said she understands how “crucial it is to still take a personal responsibility to make the change.”

America is a community that expands beyond hardships, and despite failure, America could “become something larger if we get back up and continue to make the effort to make things better,” Smicker said.

“I feel like what it means to be an American is to accept your freedom and not take it for granted,” PAHS student Kaleb Saizan said. “Not only to better yourself but to better those around you and to create a future for the people that come after us in order to restore and maintain the sense of freedom.”

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