6 Organizations That Champion Student Civic Engagement
When it comes to politics and civic engagement, it is true that, historically, millennials have been brandished with the Scarlet Letter “A” – for apathy.
While they now rival Baby Boomers for their potential political impact, only a third of millennials eligible to vote in the 2012 election actually showed up to the polls.
Numbers were fairly better in the 2016 election, according to CIRCLE. They estimated “23.7 million young voters participated in the 2016 presidential election, which is 50 percent of citizens aged 18-29 in the United States.”
How can we continue to increase that percentage as more young voters come of age politically? Some elected officials have made some suggestions to address student civic engagement on the state legislative level, making civic education a requirement for high school graduation, most recently in Oregon
But other than making it the law, how can other groups foster an environment that activates students to get involved? Here’s a list of some of our favorite organizations that tackle this issue head on:
Civic Nation is essentially a supergroup comprised of many civic engagement initiatives.They lead the ALL IN for Democracy Challenge, which is committed to recognizing “post-secondary campuses committed to improving democratic engagement, increasing student voter participation rates and graduating students with a lifelong commitment to being informed and active citizens.” They regularly host webinars for colleges and universities who are interested in participating.
About five years ago, the Fair Elections Legal Network launched the Campus Vote Project to focus a branch of its efforts specifically around student voting issues, working together with “universities, community colleges, faculty, students and election officials to reduce barriers to student voting.”
They work within the system and with key stakeholders to institute reforms that enable students to more easily access the ballot box as informed citizens.
Living up to the organization’s namesake, the late civil rights activist Andrew Goodman, this foundation is dedicated to awakening student activists and “harnessing the legacy of courageous civic action to grow new leaders of change: young adults bitten by the spirit of activism.”
Their campus coalitions across the country nurture and grow a culture of democracy and promoting the right to vote for young people and minorities, “incubating a new civic-minded generation.”
Nonprofit Vote leverages the collective power of nonprofit organizations all over the country, in addition to their volunteer networks, to promote voter rights and civic engagement. Their efforts create a domino effect of spreading awareness and increasing action, especially groups that are typically underrepresented in the electoral process, such as young people.
According to their 2014 evaluation, their Engaging New Voters initiative “showed that voters contacted in-person by nonprofits during services voted at higher rates than other voters in their state across all demographics.” As trusted voices in their respective communities, nonprofits have a direct impact in increasing voter turnout.
This collective of more than 400 colleges and universities have pledged their commitment to student civic engagement. Every year, college administrators meet to trade best practices and experiences on initiatives they’ve implemented to help students become better informed and excited about politics.
In fact, icitizen partnered with them during President Obama’s State of the Union address in January 2016, hosting a live stream of the address and several panels at Illinois State University.
HeadCount partners with bands, music venues and festivals all across the country. While you enjoy watching your favorite artists, volunteers help register or update your voter registration information.
It’s a win-win. Why not fulfill your civic duty in between sets or when you’re waiting for your favorite band to play?!
There are numerous ways to help increase student civic engagement – whether through efforts similar to the groups above, or by hosting volunteer events, fundraisers to help a cause, etc. Civic engagement apps also make it easier for students and non-students alike to get involved as you go about your day.