Reflections from Civic Learning Week

Jessica Sutter , Chief of Civic Learning Initiatives

March 28, 2024

Project Citizen Conference

I was delighted to participate in in the Project Citizen Research Program Conference at Georgetown University. I facilitated a panel entitled, “What is Civic engagement?” featuring three graduate students and one undergraduate working with the Civic Education Research Lab, led by Professor Diana Owen. While my panel was great fun (especially if you like research!) the sessions immediately prior was a prime example of youth civic engagement: middle & high school students sharing their research on public policy issues and what they learned from the process of researching a community issue, plus proposing solutions to those who can activate change. If you’re not familiar with Project Citizen from the Center for Civic Education, read all about it here. And if you want to see recorded sessions from the conference livestream, you can watch here.

Learning from Young People Panel

I also had the chance to co-facilitate an amazing discussion with high school students from Chicago, DC, Salinas, California and Prince George’s County, Maryland. All of these young people participate in programs associated with Mikva Challenge. The discussion was rooted in data from the Citizens & Scholars survey, The Civic Outlook of Young Adults in America, but the conversation was wide-ranging, covering topics such as voting, youth engagement, productive discussions across lines of difference and what young people really want in terms of support from teachers and other adults in their lives. Here’s a few of my favorite tidbits from the discussion:

  • “A lot of Americans are focused on big elections, like Presidential elections, and I don’t think that people acknowledge the fact that what democracy is as a whole & that we have so much impact within our own community, like voting for state & town representatives…” (Xiomara)
  • “I think there’s an important need for civic education — like what we’re doing right now” (Hari)
  • “I think that you have to be in the right space [to have difficult conversations]…misinformation on social media is a really big issue.” (Arayah)
  • “I think civic action comes with the knowledge on how to execute it. I think that’s so important.” (Valeria)
Related: Building Connection: Youth Mental Health & Civic Engagement

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