Bill teaches teens about pa­tience, pol­i­tics

Barns des­ig­nated as of­fi­cial his­tor­i­cal struc­tures in Ohio.

Dayton Daily News - - LOCAL & STATE - By Alissa Wid­man Neese

Span­ning COLUM­BUS — more than four years, it’s likely Wester­ville Cen­tral High School’s long­est class project ever.

But to the four teens who first pro­posed a bill to Ohio law­mak­ers in 2014 that will fi­nally be­come law in March, it’s much more than a school as­sign­ment. What started as a mid­dle-school learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence has evolved into a pas­sion for pre­serv­ing Ohio his­tory, the girls say.

The bill des­ig­nates the barn as Ohio’s of­fi­cial his­tor­i­cal ar­chi­tec­tural struc­ture, rec­og­niz­ing the build­ings that have housed ev­ery­thing from schoolchil­dren to farm equip­ment, crops and an­i­mals since the pi­o­neer days.

Though in­tro­duced on its own, the state des­ig­na­tion even­tu­ally was rolled into Sen­ate Bill 86, a lengthy mea­sure that in­cludes other recog­ni­tions, such as dub­bing the sec­ond week of Oc­to­ber “Ohio Cov­ered Bridge Week” and declar­ing that a shel­ter pet is the state’s of­fi­cial pet.

For­mer Gov. John Ka­sich signed the bill in De­cem­ber.

It was a long road, filled with hours of re­search, tes­ti­mony and ad­vo­cacy, es­pe­cially af­ter the pro­posal stalled in the Ohio Sen­ate.

But the stu­dents say the ex­pe­ri­ence, though frus­trat­ing at times, taught them more about pol­i­tics than they could ever learn from a text­book.

“We grew up with this bill, re­ally,” said 17-year-old ju­nior Anna Bor­ders. “There were a lot of hic­cups and ob­sta­cles along the way, but even that taught us about per­se­ver­ance and stick­ing to our guns.”

Bor­ders first crafted the pro­posal as a Genoa Mid­dle School sev­enth-grader with class­mates Sarah Gell­ner, 17; Rachel Kauf­man, 16; and Adri­ane Thomp­son, 17. Bor­ders, Gell­ner and Kauf­man are Wester­ville Cen­tral ju­niors now, and Thomp­son at­tends the Wellington School in Up­per Ar­ling­ton.

It all started when Ca­ley Nestor Baker, at that time a so­cial stud­ies teacher, and Deb­bie Pelling­ton, a co­or­di­na­tor of gifted ser­vices, took sev­enth-graders on a field trip to the Ohio State­house. There, they of­fered pro­pos­als for a new state sym­bol to for­mer Rep. Anne Gon­za­les, R-Wester­ville, who or­ga­nized the event as a way to en­gage young peo­ple in pol­i­tics, she said.

Gon­za­les se­lected their pro­posal and in­tro­duced it to the House in 2017.

Sen­ate Bill 86, in its fi­nal form, was first in­tro­duced by Bob Hack­ett, R-London, chair­man of the Sen­ate’s agri­cul­ture com­mit­tee, who helped give it its fi­nal push.

The stu­dents’ pro­posal was in­spired by the Everal Barn, a re­stored Wester­ville struc­ture on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places that’s used as an event space, as well as the state’s 2003 bi­cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tion, when an artist painted mu­rals on one barn in each of Ohio’s 88 coun­ties.

Barns are an im­por­tant part of Ohio his­tory, and be­cause of the di­ver­sity of Ohio’s Euro­pean set­tlers, the state boasts a va­ri­ety of barn styles, each with a story, said Dan Troth, vice pres­i­dent of Friends of Ohio Barns, a non­profit group and bill pro­po­nent.

For ex­am­ple, a 16-sided barn in Freeport, an east­ern Ohio vil­lage, was de­signed by Ge­orge Washington to keep horses warm and is one of only three left in the coun­try. Mail Pouch barns, painted with 1920s ads for chew­ing to­bacco, still span the Ohio Val­ley.

But to­day, many his­toric barns face the threat of de­mo­li­tion, Troth said.

Even struc­tures in pris­tine shape are fre­quently dis­man­tled for their wood, which is turned into floor­ing, ceil­ing beams and fur­ni­ture, he said.

Though they ini­tially faced pres­sure to stream­line their pro­posal, the stu­dents stood by their choice to rec­og­nize all barns, rather than one spe­cific type, to be in­clu­sive of all of Ohio’s past, they said.

“We’re ex­cited about the mark we’ve left on Ohio’s code,” Thomp­son said. “Now, groups like Friends of Ohio Barns and the Ohio His­tory Con­nec­tion will have some­thing to point to when they’re work­ing to pre­serve Ohio’s his­tory.”

ADAM CAIRNS / THE COLUM­BUS DIS­PATCH

Ca­ley Nestor Baker (from left), Wester­ville Cen­tral ju­niors Rachel Kauf­man, Anna Bor­ders and Sarah Gell­ner, Wellington ju­nior Adri­ane Thomp­son and Deb­bie Pelling­ton worked to draft the barn bill.

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