Monday, April 22, 2024

Youth Vote 2024: Benefits of Youth Civic Engagement

Source: www.urge.org

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! 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.

Research and experience tell us that involving young people in civic engagement and activism activities brings benefits to youth participants. Benefits are also accrued by the organizational partners and the larger community, as well as adult program staff. 

“In economically distressed communities who are the targets of structural racism, we have seen how youth benefit from the opportunity to reflect critically on the world — to ask questions and denaturalize what feels like “normal” by visiting neighboring communities and imagine radical futures and the opportunity to generate solutions through policies or public narratives. These experiences contribute to a sense of agency and belonging that prepares young people to navigate the world with confidence and critical analysis; in some cases it can also offer a context for “healing” that involves personal and social transformation.” [i]

Benefits of Civic Engagement and Activism for Youth Participants

  • Helps them make new friends and contacts and increases their social and relationship skills
  • Helps them build social capital
  • Increases self-confidence and promotes a positive sense of agency and empowerment
  • Combats depression and helps them stay physically healthy
  • Supports healing from trauma
  • Opportunities to serve others and give back to the community
  • Prepares them for leadership roles
  • Opens their minds to new ideas and people
  • Fuels passion and purpose
  • Teaches collaboration
  • Brings fun and fulfillment to their lives
  • The happiness effect: Helping others kindles happiness, as many studies have demonstrated
  • Learn valuable job skills and can offer career experience
  • Increases connection to the community
  • More likely to remain civically engaged as adults.” [ii]

How is youth engagement in elections and voting good for the community? 
According to Chat GPT, “Youth engagement in elections and voting is beneficial for the community in several ways: 

  1. Representation: When young people participate in elections, their voices and perspectives are represented in the political process. 
  2. Policy Influence: Increased youth engagement can lead to the prioritization of issues that are important to young people, such as education, employment opportunities, climate change, and social justice. Elected officials are more likely to address these issues and implement policies that benefit young people when they see them actively participating in the electoral process.
  3. Civic Education and Participation: Engaging in the electoral process encourages young people to become more informed about political issues and candidates. It also fosters a sense of civic responsibility and encourages them to take an active role in shaping the future of their communities and society as a whole.
  4. Long-Term Impact: Encouraging youth engagement in elections establishes a habit of voting that can last a lifetime. Research has shown that individuals who vote in their first few elections are more likely to continue voting in subsequent elections throughout their lives. 
  5. Social Cohesion: When different age groups within a community actively participate in elections and voting, it can promote social cohesion and a sense of unity. 
  6. Accountability of Leaders: When young people participate in elections, they hold elected officials accountable for their actions and decisions.

Overall, youth engagement in elections and voting is essential for a healthy democracy and contributes to the overall well-being of the community by ensuring diverse representation, influencing policy decisions, fostering civic education and participation, and promoting accountability and social cohesion.” [iii] 

Source: Center for Tech and Civic Life

RESOURCES TO LEARN MORE
Below are some resources that may be useful. NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list, as there are many program resources on the topic, some of which are detailed in our paper, Youth Civic Engagement and Activism in Expanded Learning Programs. You can view previous LIAS blogs on this topic here. You can also view a recent recording of our webinar we conducted on this topic here.

ORGANIZATIONS THAT FOCUS ON YOUTH ENGAGEMENT IN ELECTIONS

 

TOOLKITS AND OTHER RESOURCES

 

ARTICLES/REPORTS


VIDEOS 


END NOTES
[ii] IBID.
[iii] Chat GPT, How is youth engagement in elections and voting good for the community?


UPCOMING WEBINAR:
The 2024 election offers a number of opportunities to engage older youth in civic engagement. But these opportunities require input from youth, organizing and planning- so start program planning early because there is no better time for youth to be involved in making a change than through the ballot box. We can frame these efforts as “meaningful participation”, “civic engagement”, “youth leadership” or “community service.”

This webinar will review the benefits of youth engagement in the elections and what programs can do to encourage youth involvement and voting. We will also talk about how to involve youth in voter registration and determine what news is reliable and which is misinformation. We will also talk about how youth who are under 18 and unable to vote can be involved.

To learn more and register, click here.

Monday, April 15, 2024

The Importance of Arts Education in Afterschool

Source: Oakland Leaf

For several years there has been an on-going decline in the funding for arts education in schools which we have been discussing as a major problem. (See previous LIAS blogs on art here.)

Afterschool programs are perfectly positioned to fill this gap. Below, we offer 2 guest blogs from Oakland Leaf on the importance of creativity and arts education.

Oakland Leaf Afterschool Program Manager on The Power of Creative Arts Education

By Guest Blogger, Jonathan Higgenbotham, Bret Harte Middle School Afterschool Program Manager. (This blog was originally published on Oakland Leaf.)

Middle school can be tough on self-esteem. Social comparison becomes more intense and can lead to feelings of unworthiness that affect everything from healthy decision-making to academic performance. When I was in middle school, participation in team sports boosted my confidence and kept me on a positive path. As the manager of an afterschool program with a strong emphasis on the visual arts, I have had the opportunity to observe how creative pursuits can have a similar transformative impact on a young person’s life. 

Source: Oakland Leaf 

At the beginning of the school year, after more than a year of remote learning, most of our afterschool program students experienced some degree of social anxiety or awkwardness. A handful of students, however, suffered much more intensely than others. I remember one of our students, an only child who had virtually no contact with other kids while school campuses were closed, was extremely insecure and struggled to communicate or even make eye contact with his peers.

He flourished in our visual arts classes though and, quickly, everything began to change for him. The vivid imagination and endless ideas that he had been unable to share in words began to fly out of him onto the paper, canvas, and screen. He started to get tons of positive feedback from his classmates. He developed friendships with other students with a passion for anime and comic books, across surprisingly diverse peer groups, and he no longer spent lunch and recess during the school day alone. 

Of course, engagement with the arts isn’t some kind of magic fix for every kid’s experience of marginalization. But I have seen with my own eyes, time and time again, how participation in the arts has connected the most unlikely kids.  And how it has inspired them to be more expressive and authentic in other areas of their lives…more willing to step outside of their comfort zones and try new and hard things. 

I think this is especially the case in creative youth development programs like Oakland Leaf’s, where all activities have an integrated social and emotional learning component that promotes creative risk-taking, peer appreciation, and bridge-building across differences. And where all of our educators, including our art teachers, are trained in multicultural education, trauma-informed practices, and restorative justice.

Cultivating Creative Spaces: A week in the life of Oakland Leaf afterschool programs

by Guest Blogger, Isa Gonzalez, Director of Community Programs (This blog was originally published on Oakland Leaf.)

“Oakland Leaf has emphasized creative expression since our founding project, a citywide youth talent show. An abundance of research confirms what we have seen again and again in our work with youth: arts education strengthens young peoples’ academic, problem-solving, and social skills, and boosts confidence and motivation. And equally important, by cultivating creatives spaces, we are cultivating joyful spaces where young people feel empowered to be their full authentic selves.” - Oakland Leaf blog 

I started my work with Oakland Leaf as an intern in a media arts program called Youth Roots when I was just 13 years old. After I graduated from college, I returned to Oakland Leaf as an After-school Program Instructor and then, later, I was promoted first to Program Manager and then, earlier this year, to Director of Community Programs. I’ve had very different responsibilities in each of these roles, but my underlying goal has always been the same: to cultivate safe spaces for youth to be their full authentic selves. 

Source: Oakland Leaf

I have found creative expression to be one of the most powerful tools for fostering authenticity. Talking about personal feelings can make people feel vulnerable, and children especially don’t often have the language to describe what they are going through. And it is not uncommon for young people to be closed off, especially if they feel judged or marginalized by their family or peers.

Nonverbal tools, and especially art activities, help kids identify and express their emotions, and share their authentic selves. Studies show that artistic expression can decrease feelings of anger and depression and can help students regulate their emotions. Creative expression is embedded into both our social and emotional learning and our restorative justice programming.

For example, as part of our conflict resolution work, before facilitating a conversation, we have the students fill out a reflection form sharing their version of events, how things could have gone differently, what harm was done, and how it might be repaired. Students have the option to share their thoughts as words or as drawings. The experience of writing, for many kids, is automatically associated with academics and this stifles their expression. Drawing, on the other hand, is associated with play and this supports many students to open up in a way they wouldn’t otherwise. Similarly, during our mindfulness sessions, we give students the option of coloring or drawing, rather than just sitting or lying still. 

Source: Oakland Leaf

When students have positive experiences with the creative processes and tools we expose them to, they adopt them as life-long practices that they can turn to for self-expression, self-regulation, and self-understanding long after they age out of our programs. The skills, knowledge, and sense of purpose and connection that I acquired as an Oakland Leaf youth program participant continue to serve me to this day.

MORE ABOUT…

Jonathan Higgenbotham is Bret Harte’s Afterschool Program Manager and was born and raised in Oakland. He attended Pine Manor College and entered into the field of education. He is a former Science and PE teacher and greatly enjoys building upon the curiosity and intelligence of young minds. He is also a high school basketball coach and has worked and volunteered with the Black Cowboy Association for about 5 years. He strives to embrace and empower young generations to be the greatest they can be. He is a huge proponent in leading by example as well incorporating as much fun and joy into the work on the daily.

Isa Gonzalez is Oakland Leaf’s Director of Community Programs. Before transitioning into her current role, Isa served as the Program Manager at one of Oakland Leaf’s afterschool programs. As a minority in Oakland, she has been labeled as a female who is statistically designed to fail, and lives in a city labeled as a “malignant place.” But Isa refused to let others define her, and always was eager to realize her dreams. Isa discovered her passion for equity in education and Feminism through an Oakland Leaf critical media afterschool program. Isa is a life-long learner and is passionate about sharing her knowledge with those who surround her. At Oakland Leaf, Isa continues her mission of providing youth with the resources that they might not be able to attain elsewhere, and gives them the tools to be active agents of change in our communities.

Oakland Leaf was founded in 2001 by a collective of East Oakland educators intent on empowering youth voice. At the time, Oakland was experiencing a surge in crime and violence, the country was about to enter a war, and many kids in Oakland didn’t have an outlet or a platform to examine and express their fears, anxieties, hopes and dreams. Oakland Leaf’s first program was the All Oakland Youth Talent Show. More than two decades later, they have evolved into a highly regarded leader in the fields of youth development and out-of-school time learning. 


UPCOMING WEBINARS:

Almost every day there is a piece in the news about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its dangers. AI is all around us, and whether or not you realize it, people use artificial intelligence every single day. Many young people, even those who are very tech savvy, know little about this topic. Adults, including those in afterschool programs, know even less. Yet, AI is being used by companies more and more. As we venture deeper into the digital age, understanding AI and its educational potential becomes more crucial than ever.

We believe that youth need to understand more about AI, and afterschool is a perfect place to do this. But are afterschool leaders equipped for this? It’s important for educators to understand AI so they can help their youth make sense of a technological development that is predicted to be a huge force in the world, experts say. It’s crucial for educators to be AI literate, to be able to explain what it is, and to understand its powers and limitations.

To learn more and register, click here.

The 2024 election offers a number of opportunities to engage older youth in civic engagement. But these opportunities require input from youth, organizing and planning- so start program planning early because there is no better time for youth to be involved in making a change than through the ballot box. We can frame these efforts as “meaningful participation”, “civic engagement”, “youth leadership” or “community service.”

This webinar will review the benefits of youth engagement in the elections and what programs can do to encourage youth involvement and voting. We will also talk about how to involve youth in voter registration and determine what news is reliable and which is misinformation. We will also talk about how youth who are under 18 and unable to vote can be involved.

To learn more and register, click here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week: Ways to Show You Care


Source: Temescal Associates

By Sam Piha

During the pandemic we learned how afterschool youth workers are “essential.” At the height of the pandemic, workers in youth programs adapted to the needs of families. They packed and delivered food to their program participants and moved their programming to online formats. 

As young people returned to their afterschool program, we saw how they were affected by the circumstances of isolation. Many were angry and depressed, which they showed through their behavior. Many afterschool staff experienced increased stress, as behavior issues and being short staffed took a distinct toll. 

Source: National Afterschool Association

April 22-26, 2024 is Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week. This is a good time to recognize and appreciate the value that afterschool professionals bring to so many lives. Below are some ways that families, school and non-profit leaders and organizations can show their appreciation. This article was originally published by the National Afterschool Association

“How can YOU show you care about afterschool workers? 

FOR FAMILIES 

Everyone appreciates being recognized for their efforts and a simple “thank you!” goes a long way! Some ideas include: 

  • Hand-written cards from you and/or your child
  • An email to the staff member’s manager or administrator

  • Fun handmade signs put up at the location of your program 
  • Healthy or non-food treats for the afterschool program staff
  • Gift cards for a specialty coffee, teacher supply store or bookstore 

FOR LEADERS 

Thanking your staff shows them you appreciate what they do! Some ideas to show your appreciation: 

  • Sharing with parents and kids about Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week via email or social media
  • Providing healthy treats or lunch for staff 
  • Creating awards for specific strengths of staff members (Best Family Communicator, STEM Star, Most Positive, etc.)

  • Sending a Press Release to your local media 
Source: WINGS for Kids
FOR ORGANIZATIONS 

Organizations can recognize, appreciate, and advocate for the afterschool professionals making a difference in their community; it shines the light on their efforts and accomplishments! Some ideas include: 

  • Sharing about Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week in your communications (web site, eNewsletters, social media)
  • Hosting events honoring the success of your local afterschool programs

  • Sending a Press Release to your local media 
  • Asking local officials to proclaim the event” 

How will you celebrate? 

Additional ideas and thoughts:

  • Staff can be treated to a dinner or fun activity, such as bowling or a trip to a nearby amusement park.
  • To ensure there are funds to cover this for next year, include a line item for this expenditure.
  • Get your afterschool program youth participants to sign a card showing their appreciation.

For our part, we will create and send a press release to spread the word of Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week by local news outlets. 


UPCOMING WEBINARS:

Almost every day there is a piece in the news about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its dangers. AI is all around us, and whether or not you realize it, people use artificial intelligence every single day. Many young people, even those who are very tech savvy, know little about this topic. Adults, including those in afterschool programs, know even less. Yet, AI is being used by companies more and more. As we venture deeper into the digital age, understanding AI and its educational potential becomes more crucial than ever.

We believe that youth need to understand more about AI, and afterschool is a perfect place to do this. But are afterschool leaders equipped for this? It’s important for educators to understand AI so they can help their youth make sense of a technological development that is predicted to be a huge force in the world, experts say. It’s crucial for educators to be AI literate, to be able to explain what it is, and to understand its powers and limitations.

To learn more and register, click here.

The 2024 election offers a number of opportunities to engage older youth in civic engagement. But these opportunities require input from youth, organizing and planning- so start program planning early because there is no better time for youth to be involved in making a change than through the ballot box. We can frame these efforts as “meaningful participation”, “civic engagement”, “youth leadership” or “community service.”

This webinar will review the benefits of youth engagement in the elections and what programs can do to encourage youth involvement and voting. We will also talk about how to involve youth in voter registration and determine what news is reliable and which is misinformation. We will also talk about how youth who are under 18 and unable to vote can be involved.

To learn more and register, click here.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Youth Vote 2024: What Afterschool Programs Can Do

Source: Ed Week

By Sam Piha
 
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. Below we cite several things that afterschool programs and their youth participants can do in regards to the 2024 election. (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.)

Don’t Wait- Start Program Planning NOW!
When we spoke to afterschool practitioners in the winter of 2024 about when afterschool programs should begin planning engagement activities, they all responded “now!”
 
Involve Youth


“There are many ways youth can be involved and one of the ways that we support 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.” - John Fuentes, Associate Director, Bay Area Community Resources
 
It is important to involve youth when considering any new program initiatives, enlisting new partners or funders. Perhaps youth participants can:
  • Provide input on the goals, strategies and activities
  • Identify partners in the community that might be appropriate for engaging youth in the 2024 election
  • Design and deliver thank you cards for any individuals and organizations that partner in any way
  • Organize and lead related discussions and activities
  • Get involved with issues that matter to them
  • Ask teachers and school to grow voters
  • Bring local politicians to their school or youth program
Address the Common Excuses Young People Cite for Not Voting
“Excuses, excuses! Young people find plenty of them not to vote. According to the Pew Research Center, of the roughly 138 million people who voted in the 2016 presidential election, only 13 percent were under the age of 30, while people over 65 accounted for 27 percent of the vote. What gives?” [i]

The video below examines common reasons that young people cite for not voting. Click on the image below to view this resource.

Source: Boston University

Address the Barriers to Voting for Youth Ages 18-29
There are many legitimate barriers to voting, as cited by youth. If we want to encourage youth to vote for the first time, it is essential that we understand the barriers to youth voting. See the graphic below.
 
Source: CIRCLE
 
Provide Voting Information 
A major barrier to voting is simply lack of information. According to CIRCLE, “Many young people are simply not taught about elections and voting in school; both the practicalities of registering and casting a ballot and the reasons why their voices and votes matter in democracy. Learn more
 
Voting in America is not a straightforward process. Registration deadlines and requirements are different in every state, voting may conflict with work and/or school, absentee voting rules can be confusing, voters may lack transportation to the polls, etc. Some of these barriers are especially acute for the youngest voters, who may struggle to update their voter registration when they move dorms each year in college, or who are less likely to have a driver's license to use as a voter ID. Learn more.



Because they're less likely to have a voting history or be seen as likely voters, many political organizations neglect youth outreach. In 2022, almost half of young people we surveyed (46%) said they were not contacted by any type of organization, candidate, or party. That can lead to a lack of information and confidence: 21% of youth in 2022 said it was because they didn't feel like they knew enough, and just 40% said they felt well-qualified to participate in politics. Learn more.” [ii]
 
Also,
  • Research issues and candidates: sponsor forums and make voter guides/informational handouts
  • Provide State-by-state information - Every state has different voting requirements. Click here to access a good State-by-state tool.
  • Review the ballot with youth so they understand what’s on it and how to use it.
  • Where to go to vote?
About Absentee Voting or Voting by Mail
“Absentee voting allows you to vote before Election Day by mail or drop box. Learn how to get an absentee ballot, cast your vote, and meet voting deadlines. Although every state has absentee voting, deadlines and rules on who can take part vary. In most states, you will need to request an absentee ballot to vote in each election. But in some states, you may qualify to receive absentee ballots permanently. Learn if you can vote absentee for every election in your state.

Get your absentee ballot from your state or territory. Visit Can I Vote and choose your state from the dropdown menu. It will take you right to your state's absentee voting page.

Your state may require you to have a valid excuse to vote absentee. Acceptable excuses vary by state.” [iii] 
 
Misinformation and News literacy
According to the News Literacy Project, “The 2024 election season will be among the most closely followed in American history, and as in past years, it also will attract a flood of mis- and disinformation. A new development this year is the rise of artificial intelligence technologies, which can create sophisticated fabrications and distortions that challenge our ability to identify what’s real and what’s not like never before.


The News Literacy Project is working to ensure that you know how to discern fact from fiction and can make well-informed voting decisions when you go to the polls.” [iv] 

The News Literacy Project has several tools and activities for youth to decern fact from disinformation. 

Preparing First Time Voters: Help Youth Create a Voting Plan
“Vote planning is a technique to ensure voters turnout to the polls. The goal of a vote plan is to encourage an individual to envision themselves voting and identify any potential barriers they might have or encounter. You can make a vote plan for yourself or with someone when phone banking, canvassing, or in normal conversation. Develop a vote plan by asking questions such as: 
  • What time will you be voting? 
  • Where are you voting? 
  • Do you have a mail-in ballot or are you going to the polls? 
  • How are you getting there? 
  • Do you need a ride? 
  • Who else can you bring with you? 
  • Do you need to take off school or work or secure childcare? 
  • In states with voter I.D. laws: Do you have all the necessary documents to vote?  
Answering these questions will help youth plan how to vote and ensure you and your community members are able to cast your ballots.” [v]


END NOTES
[iv] News Literacy Project, Election 2024: Be informed, not misled
[v] National Council of Jewish Women, Create A Voting Plan


UPCOMING WEBINARS:

Almost every day there is a piece in the news about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its dangers. AI is all around us, and whether or not you realize it, people use artificial intelligence every single day. Many young people, even those who are very tech savvy, know little about this topic. Adults, including those in afterschool programs, know even less. Yet, AI is being used by companies more and more. As we venture deeper into the digital age, understanding AI and its educational potential becomes more crucial than ever.

We believe that youth need to understand more about AI, and afterschool is a perfect place to do this. But are afterschool leaders equipped for this? It’s important for educators to understand AI so they can help their youth make sense of a technological development that is predicted to be a huge force in the world, experts say. It’s crucial for educators to be AI literate, to be able to explain what it is, and to understand its powers and limitations.

To learn more and register, click here.

The 2024 election offers a number of opportunities to engage older youth in civic engagement. But these opportunities require input from youth, organizing and planning- so start program planning early because there is no better time for youth to be involved in making a change than through the ballot box. We can frame these efforts as “meaningful participation”, “civic engagement”, “youth leadership” or “community service.”

This webinar will review the benefits of youth engagement in the elections and what programs can do to encourage youth involvement and voting. We will also talk about how to involve youth in voter registration and determine what news is reliable and which is misinformation. We will also talk about how youth who are under 18 and unable to vote can be involved.

To learn more and register, click here.

Youth Vote 2024: Benefits of Youth Civic Engagement

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