Penny Wells, a Youngstown City Schools teacher for 32 years, is the Ohio VFW Teacher of the Year for Citizenship Education. She uses hands-on projects to make American history, citizenship and democracy come to life for Volney Rogers Junior High School students. Her citizenship-related activities include:
Adviser for the Volney Rogers Youth for Justice team, sponsored by the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education. In 2000, the YFJ team was commended by the Ohio General Assembly for getting a bill introduced that would prohibit open displays of tobacco in stores and prohibit tobacco vending machines in public places frequented by youth.
Spearheading an annual program to provide opportunities for four students to attend a summer citizenship camp sponsored by OCLRE.
Coordinator of a student body mock election at Volney Rogers during presidential election years.
Inviting guest speakers, such as lawmakers, veterans and others, to her classroom for career exploration purposes.
She traveled to China in February 2001 with a middle school delegation under the auspices of the People to People Ambassador Program.
Her students had the opportunity to present petitions and speak before Youngstown City Council; testify before the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee, shadow state representatives for two days on the job in Columbus; and coordinate a school-wide recycling effort to purchase trees for the school site. In 1997, her students received the Mayor's Task Force Against Crime award for their work on why teens join gangs.
Biographical information: Wells, of Boardman, grew up in Dallas. She graduated in 1966 from Brown University in Providence, R.I., with a degree in American Civilization. She then spent two years in West Virginia with VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), the domestic Peace Corps, before coming to Youngstown.
Her husband, Bill, played basketball for Youngstown State University in the early 1970s, and is a social worker with the Trumbull Baptist Association. They have two sons: Preston, an accountant in Raritan, N.J., and Chris, a physical therapist in Sandusky.

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