Monday, April 22, 2024

Youth Vote 2024: Benefits of Youth Civic Engagement


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

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.







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

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.

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