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Constitution, Bill of Rights featured at Junior Achievement center

“All of us have an obligation to study the Constitution and participate actively in the system of self-government that it establishes. This is an obligation we owe, not only to ourselves but to our children and their children,” President Ronald Reagan said as he was speaking at the Bicentennial Celebration of the United States Constitution in September of 1987.

An educational organization based in Coconut Creek has taken those words to heart and has opened their doors to bronze replicas of the original U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Junior Achievement of South Florida (JA), a nonprofit focused on teaching students about economics and finance, will be introducing five plaques on Sept. 16 at the start of the national Constitution Week – one for the Bill of Rights and four for the Constitution. Their hope is to teach students in Broward County exactly what the documents say and stand for.

“Ronald Reagan had this vision that he wanted this to happen, and then it kind of died, but it has been recently resurrected,” Jodi Danois, director of Development at JA, said. “We’re super excited to be doing this.”

The $8,500 in plaques were made by the National Constitution Plaque Initiative, an organization dedicated to bringing the U.S. Constitution to students around the nation.

“Our ultimate goal is to place them in every South Florida school,” Larry Creeger, president of the National Constitution Plaque Initiative, said. “In the meantime, in Broward County, there isn’t a better place to put them than JA because 50,000 kids go through there a year. The students will begin to understand how difficult it was to come up with a document like this.”

Through the organization’s Spirit of Freedom Experience program, JA was able to purchase the plaques after a $100,000 donation from longtime sponsor, the Leo Goodwin Foundation. The rest of the grant will go toward the event and the construction of a special gallery to house the plaques.

“This gift from the Leo Goodwin Foundation really took on a life of its own,” Danois said. “We have a whole education component planned around these plaques now. It will be good for the students.”

JA isn’t the first place to get the replicas. About six schools have also bought the plaques, the first being Maggie L. Walker Governor School for Government in Richmond, Va. Retired director of the school, Fred Morton, believes the plaques have been one of the best things to happen to the school.

“The students were just thrilled with them. We put them in the commons, which is the most frequently used area for students and the community,” Morton said. “The ability to look and see, in essence touch, the documents is pretty thrilling.”

JA hopes that the coming celebration centered around the plaques will be just as thrilling as it has been for the other places that have the replicas, but that it will also teach people something about how the United States became what it is today.

“We’re doing a whole history thing around it to really make sure people understand, especially in light of what’s going on in the world these days,” Danois said. “It seems like people are looking for that kind of hope.”

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