Monday, March 25, 2024

Engaging Youth in the 2024 Elections

Source: Center for Tech and Civic Life

By Sam Piha

The 2024 election offers a number of opportunities to engage older youth. But these opportunities require input from youth and staff, organizing and planning- so start program planning NOW! 
There is no better time for youth to be involved in making a change through the ballot box. We can frame these efforts as “meaningful participation”, “civic engagement”, “youth leadership” or “community service”. There are a number of organizations and initiatives that have designed curriculums, program tools and other materials to assist afterschool providers in their efforts to engage youth in the 2024 elections. This blog is an excerpt from our recently released briefing paper entitled, How Can Afterschool Programs Promote Civic Engagement and the Youth Vote in 2024.

Dispelling Myths about Youth Voting
“When many members of the public talk about young people's civic and political participation, they often rely on and perpetuate myths about youth voting and youth attitudes toward civic life. These myths can reflect a lack of understanding of the complex dynamics that shape young people's engagement in democracy. At best, they paint an incomplete picture of these dynamics; at worst, they misrepresent them entirely. These inaccuracies can hinder efforts to increase youth voting and other forms of civic participation.
“Young people today are constantly depicted as disengaged and irresponsible. In fact, we are anything but. We are more progressive than our parents, more educated, and far more connected. We are powerful, engaged, and ready to lead.” [i]
CIRCLE's two decades of research on these topics, and our work on the ground with a diverse set of partners and practitioners, have given us the data and understanding to dispel some of these myths:
·       Young People Are Apathetic
·       Youth Voting Has Been Declining for Decades

Source: CIRCLE

(The estimates above are from CIRCLE analysis of voter file data in recent elections. Estimates based on the Census data produce slightly different results but allow us to examine historical trends over the past 50 years.)
·       Young People Just Choose Not to Vote
·       Young People Are All Liberal College Students
·       Young Voters Don't Impact Elections.” 

Dispelling these myths is crucial for understanding and addressing the barriers that may prevent young people from fully participating in the democratic process. Encouraging youth engagement and empowering young voters are essential for ensuring a vibrant and inclusive democracy.” [ii] 

We interviewed several afterschool leaders on the importance of youth involvement in the elections. 

Q: Do you think it is important to encourage youth to be involved in the 2024 election? (this could involve making a plan to vote, registering students who will be eligible to vote, volunteering for a campaign or candidate that they agree with, etc.) If yes, why?

RF- YES! We think it is very important to encourage youth to be involved in 2024 election at both the local and national level. One of our greatest rights, and responsibility as an American, is the right to Vote – which was not afforded to everyone throughout our history. I happen think everyone should be given a voter registration card when they are issued their birth certificate, it’s that important.

JF- Yes, I think it's very important and so do the youth we work with. Our youth feel that their voice matters even if they can not "vote". At a few of our high schools in Oakland, we have lots of civic leadership/action groups including a group of students in our program who go to Sacramento every year to meet with Legislators and share their stories about the importance of expanded learning programs. We'll be there again with over 60 young people on March 12th. 

SV- I do think it's absolutely imperative to encourage and support youth to be involved in the 2024 election. Although youth can be quite vocal (and influential) on social media about issues important to them, statistically speaking however, they are one of the least engaged groups when it comes to voter turnout. 

Q: Could you describe what you are planning to do with engaging youth in the 2024 election?

RF - We plan to host registration events, and possibly even parties; on election day, we plan to go with teens who are voting for the first time and to make a big deal of it (e.g., “It’s my first time voting” hats or sashes).

Q: When should programs begin planning for this? 

RF- NOW! States will have different deadlines for voter registration so be sure you know what they are.

SV- I think it's never too early for programs to plan for this. 

Q: How should youth be involved? 

RF- They can be involved in planning, they can be trained to help register others to vote, they can create messages about the importance of voting, they can schedule meetings with various candidates or attend Town Hall events and submit questions for prospective candidates- they can host their own forums with the candidates.

JF- There are many ways youth can be involved and one of the ways that we support, especially during expanded learning programs, is to provide a space for youth to discuss the topics, issues and challenges they feel are important to them and their communities, then, discuss the possible solutions and who can support the possible solutions and resolutions. This includes local, state and national elected officials. It's important that students continue to explore local officials and the causes that are on top for them.  

Bay Area Community Resources (BACR) is part of a statewide youth civic action group called TACA (Teens Advocating for Civic Action) and students meet monthly on zoom to discuss the issues they're facing and the action steps they're taking including the upcoming election and its impact on those issues.

SV- I think youth should be involved in the planning and implementation as much as possible, from informing the creation of lesson plans/contents (via advisory committees, polls, surveys, etc.) to co-facilitation for their peers and helping these programs be student-driven/led as much as possible. At the end of the day, students listen to their peers more than adults. Involving youth is crucial to ensure their voices are heard, and we are not addressing these topics through our adult lens.

[i] Chat GPT, How is youth engagement in elections and voting good for the community?

Monday, March 18, 2024

Creativity in Children: A Pathway to Growth and Exploration

By Guest Blogger Akoma Unity Center. (This blog was originally published on Akoma Unity Center.)

This blog offers insightful guidelines to help your children harness the immense benefits and rewards of creative thinking effectively.

Provide a Nurturing Environment for Creativity

Creating opportunities for creativity doesn’t require significant investment. Simple resources such as paper, pencils, dedicated time, and space can go a long way. Set up an environment that encourages creative expression, giving your children both room and time to explore their imagination. While material resources like paints, cameras, or musical instruments are important, fostering the right mindset is equally crucial, as we’ll discuss further.

Foster Openness and Freedom

Source: Akoma Unity Center

Resist the urge to provide directions when your children are engaged in creative activities. Embrace the fluidity of the creative process. Allowing your children to make their own decisions about subjects, materials, and pace is vital for reaping the full benefits of creative thinking. Embrace the mess that can accompany creative endeavors; it’s an integral part of the process. The ability to revel in creative freedom is a cornerstone of your children’s personal growth, helping them develop a strong sense of self while acquiring valuable life skills.

Engage in Conversations About Art

Initiate conversations about art with your children without hesitation. Normalizing art as a topic of daily discussion can also strengthen the parent-child bond. Share with your children why you’re drawn to a specific song or painting. Cultivate curiosity about their preferences without passing judgment. Consider asking open-ended questions, such as:

  • Who’s your favorite TV or literary character?
  • What is it about that movie that resonates with you?
  • If you were in that character’s shoes, how would you tackle the situation?
  • How do you envision that character solving this problem?

Encourage Idea Exchange

Recognize that creativity goes beyond artistic endeavors; it’s a way of life. Regularly exchange ideas with your children. Encourage them to contribute ideas and reciprocate by sharing your own. Be attentive to their feedback and engage in discussions together. This experience teaches your children that refining an idea is an essential part of creativity and that creativity thrives through collaboration. Remarkably, some of history’s most influential technological and artistic achievements are the outcome of collaborative effort.

Nurturing creativity in children is a gift that keeps on giving. By providing a conducive environment, embracing openness, and fostering dialogues, you’re not only helping your children flourish creatively but also equipping them with life skills that transcend artistic endeavors. Embrace the journey of creativity alongside your children, fostering a sense of exploration, innovation, and personal growth.

Ready to embark on this creative journey with your children? Implement these practical steps and witness the transformation in their creative thinking. Encourage them to explore, express, and engage, knowing that you’re nurturing a foundation for a lifetime of innovative thinking and self-discovery.


Akoma Unity Center (AUC) is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, grassroots organization committed to the progress of African American youth, families, and communities. Akoma’s programs and services are specifically designed to meet the needs of historically excluded African American youth and communities. Programs include; Afterschool Program, Summer Day Camp, SOUL FOOD Community Dinner Night, male mentoring program, Rites of Passage, Advocacy for youth of color, STEAM Fair- Back to School Giveaway and Toy/Coat giveaway.

At Akoma Unity Center, their unwavering mission is to educate, heal, and transform historically excluded communities of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). They are dedicated to creating a more equitable and just society by organizing individuals, cultivating healthy families, and empowering communities to overcome systemic barriers. Through their comprehensive programs and initiatives, they strive to foster holistic healing, educational empowerment, and economic opportunities. By addressing the unique challenges faced by BIPOC communities, they aim to dismantle inequities, uplift voices, and create sustainable change.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Impact of Sports on Youth Development


By Guest Blogger Breakthrough Sports (This blog was originally published on the Breakthrough Sports Blog.)

At Breakthrough Sports, we believe in the profound impact of youth sports on children's lives. Engaging in sports activities not only promotes physical health but also offers invaluable life lessons, personal growth, and social development. In this blog post, we'll explore the far-reaching benefits of youth sports, backed by evidence from reputable studies, and highlight the positive effects they have on children. Join us as we delve into the transformative power of sports in shaping young athletes' futures.

The Physical Benefits of Youth Sports:
Engaging in regular physical activity through youth sports is essential for the overall well-being of children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), participating in sports helps children build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and cardiovascular fitness. Studies have shown that youth involved in sports tend to have lower risks of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other health issues, as physical activity plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy weight and improving overall health.

The Cognitive and Academic Benefits:
Participation in youth sports goes beyond physical development; it also enhances cognitive abilities and academic performance. Research published in the Journal of School Health highlights the positive correlation between sports participation and academic achievement. The study found that students involved in sports demonstrate improved focus, time management skills, and academic motivation. Engaging in structured physical activities through sports helps children develop discipline, goal-setting abilities, and enhances their cognitive function, all of which contribute to academic success.


Social and Emotional Development:
Youth sports play a pivotal role in the social and emotional development of children. The teamwork, communication, and collaboration fostered in sports environments provide valuable life skills. According to a study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, participating in team sports positively impacts the development of social skills, including leadership, cooperation, and conflict resolution . Furthermore, sports create a sense of belonging and provide opportunities for children to form friendships, build self-esteem, and develop resilience.

Character Building and Life Lessons:
Through both wins and losses, youth sports offer a platform for character building and teach vital life lessons. The competitive nature of sports helps children develop resilience, determination, and the ability to cope with challenges. According to the Aspen Institute's Project Play, participation in sports instills values such as perseverance, discipline, and sportsmanship. Athletes learn to set goals, work hard, and develop a growth mindset, transferring these skills to various aspects of their lives.


Youth sports have a profound and positive impact on children's lives. The physical, cognitive, social, and emotional benefits they offer contribute to holistic development, shaping young athletes into well-rounded individuals. At Breakthrough Sports, we are committed to providing a nurturing and supportive environment for youth athletes to thrive, acquire essential life skills, and develop a lifelong love for sports.

To learn more and donate virtually, click here.

Monday, March 4, 2024

I lost myself during the pandemic: How I found my way back to me


By Nadia Pulu

Nadia Pulu writes about the impact of the COVID pandemic on her. She is a fourth-year humanities and communications major with a concentration in journalism and media studies at California State University, Monterey Bay and is a member of EdSource’s California Student Journalism Corps. This article was originally published by EdSource.

My first semester of college at California State University, Monterey Bay was one of the best times of my life.

It can be difficult acclimating to university life, but everything felt natural and exhilarating for me. I made great friends during my Educational Opportunity Program’s Summer Bridge Program and even more once the semester started. One of my professors referred me to an internship at the campus’ Cross Cultural Center, where I still work today. I was even able to maintain a balance between my social life and my academics. I was happy, thriving and on a journey of getting to know myself better.

Then came early spring of 2020. A friend had mentioned a “new virus” he read about that was spreading in China and could be serious. I probably replied with a passive “Oh, that’s interesting,” went about my day, and well, you know the rest of that story.

Almost two years later, in fall 2021, I returned to that same campus, the place I had fallen deeply in love with and, even in a short time, invested much of myself into. Yet, the person I had begun to find there two years prior was gone. As I began to navigate this new version of the home I had begun to build but could never finish, I learned I couldn’t just pick up where I left off.

Reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances was harder than I imagined, especially when a common trend among them was commenting about how different I was. Many people said things like, “You’re less extroverted,” or “I can tell you’re a homebody now” — all of which I internalized as “you’re uninteresting and socially awkward.” Whether they meant it that way or not didn’t matter; that was what I believed, and that way of thinking was debilitating to my already struggling effort to rebuild connections. I became less confident in myself to the point that I wasn’t really sure of who I was at all.

Before the pandemic, my entire identity was built upon my ability to connect with others. I clung to that part of myself with pride, so when I no longer knew how to be that person, I felt lost. And since I had become more guarded and introverted, I didn’t really talk to anyone about how I was feeling. Instead, I tried to deal with these changes alone, regularly wondering if other people also felt this way.

Because everyone experienced isolation and shutdowns, I assumed we all would be a little changed; the problem was no one talked about it. It felt as if we all came back to campus from this extremely traumatic experience and just decided to put it behind us instead of processing what we went through. According to the National Institutes of Health, “rates of anxiety, depression and substance use disorder have increased since the beginning of the pandemic.”

I believe that is because our society has not taken the steps to collectively process what we have been through. Maybe it’s because the change was so sudden that everyone sort of rolled with the punches and processed things day-to-day, or maybe it was just a touchy subject in general.

I clung to who I was before the pandemic because all my best memories were tied to that old version of myself. But I also began to own the “new me” and accepted the new parts of myself. I began to put myself into social situations so that I could practice being more extroverted again. What helped me most in navigating this internal journey was — to my surprise — a job. In summer 2022 I worked on a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative for the city manager’s office in Monterey. I felt like what I was doing mattered, and it gave me a sense of fulfillment.

After the internship was over I found myself slowly falling back into those old feelings of self-doubt and insecurity. But I now understand that the lessons I learned along the way this past year will keep me afloat.

If my experience resonates with you, remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Talking to friends and family, reaching out to counselors on campus or even forcing yourself to be out around other people can make a huge difference in easing the isolation.

And try not to get discouraged or give up on yourself. Specifically, I found you sometimes have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in order to transform into who you’re meant to be. A shift in perspective can go a long way. Where I thought I was lost was really where I was finding myself.

My strongest resources to learn these lessons were books like “The Mountain is You,” by Brianna Wiest, podcasts such as “The Psychology of your 20s” by iHeartPodcasts, and most importantly, a strong support system made up of my friends, family and mentors. Slowly with time, patience and compassion for myself, I grew my self-confidence and found balance.

Today I know that growth comes with growing pains, and it should be embraced. Once I stopped fighting the person I was growing into, let go of what didn’t serve me, and began to be true to myself, I flourished. Now I have a home at California State University, Monterey Bay again and the best time of my life is today.

To learn more and donate virtually, click here.

Youth Vote 2024: Benefits of Youth Civic Engagement

Source: By Sam Piha The 2024 election offers a number of opportunities to engage older youth. But these opportunities require i...