At first, they were just seven high school students trying to drum up support for a school levy. Within two weeks, their small group had turned into nearly 175 Johnstown youth rallying for their future.

At first, they were just seven high school students trying to drum up support for a school levy. Within two weeks, their small group had turned into nearly 175 Johnstown youth rallying for their future.

"When adults meet, they focus on statistics," said freshman Shalon Pardee. "For us, this is something we really feel."

"We're the ones directly affected, and that's what's going to make a difference," sophomore Brooke Ison said.

The Johnstown Student Levy Committee meets every Thursday after school. Their ideas for garnering support in the community for the 9.6-mill emergency operating levy on the May 5 ballot reflect the language of their generation: not just festivals and events but, also, utube commercials and Facebook pages.

At stake May 5 are some of their curricular and all of their co- and extra-curricular programs -- programs those students fear could have them and their life-long friends scattering next year if another levy defeat makes them unavailable.

"I hear everyone talking, and I think a lot of people will have to leave to pursue what they're interested in if the levy doesn't pass," said senior Chelsea Cannon.

"If you think about it like that, we stand to lose more than programs. We'd lose our friends," Ison said.

School board members voted March 9 to cut three teaching positions, vocational agriculture, French and all co- and extra-curricular supplemental contracts for 2009-10 if new levy revenue is not generated.

Even with passage of the levy, some reductions would have to remain to see the district through the coming years, according to school officials. Programs like Vo-Ag and French could come back as part-time offerings, while co- and extra-curricular programs could come back as close to the way they are now as possible, with reduced supplemental contracts.

One aspect of the student group that surprises many is the level of involvement by current JMHS seniors. Those soon-to-be graduates are among the most dynamic leaders of the student levy committee, said Dawna Hosey, one of the group's adult advisers.

"They personally have no vested interest in the outcome, but their first thought was for their siblings and friends," Hosey said. "They're proud of what they've accomplished here -- academically, athletically, artistically -- and they wanted to put a face to what's happening."

Senior Zach Beacom has participated in football and lacrosse at JMHS.

"It's important to me for my teammates and my classmates to have the same opportunities I've enjoyed during my years here," he said, adding that makes it worth his while to spend his spare time helping to "come up with new ideas and to offer a different perspective."

J-M Superintendent Damien Bawn said such dedicated student involvement in the levy campaign "can't help but affect the outcome."

"Our students are our world," Bawn said. "They'll help the community understand the importance of what we're doing here."

"The fact they came up with this on their own to inform people of the state of the school and the value of those programs shows the knowledge they have of their community," said board member Karen Blair.

"This is an adult political experience," added Donna Carter, another mom advising the student committee. "I hope they take away from it the experience of pulling together to make a difference, of teamwork."

Student initiatives that include technology can be accessed as Election Day approaches by visiting the Johnstown Just Imagine Web site at

One set of students is scheduled to speak to community groups all over town to formally present student perspective on the levy, Hosey said.

A student carnival, to be completely organized and put on by the committee with adult supervision, is scheduled for Saturday, April 4, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the high school. It will include games and activities for students of all ages, voter registration and absentee ballots.

Hosey said she hopes Johnstown-Monroe voters "will take the pride these kids have in their school and in their community with them to the polls."

"They are so enthused," Hosey said of the group. "It's amazing for a group of kids so large to have accomplished all they have and include everyone in the process. The energy's great, and their ideas are wonderful. I couldn't be more proud of them."

Mike Blenk and Jay Hazelbaker, who co-chair the community committee through Johnstown Just Imagine, commended students for picking up the ball themselves and running with it. Hazelbaker said he hasn't seen anything like what they're doing in recent levy campaigns.

"I believe with them we're building a better future," Blenk said. "We bring wisdom and experience to this, but they bring the vibrancy and energy to really fire us all up."