Giving Voice Back to Our Youth

by Jim Vera, Kendall & Grundy County Teacher Mentor

"Why should I vote?"

That question that every teacher hears, but is often unable to answer. “Because it matters” is the teenage equivalent for “because I said so.” The truth is that many do care, and they have a voice. As a new Democracy School, Oswego East was able to take 52 students to Iowa City to observe the Caucus in February. We saw civics in action for ourselves. This was made possible through the inspiration of the McCormick Foundation, and the support of Mikva Elections. We found the answer to that question, and fortunately so can you this summer, at your local ROE.

Young voices matter, and thanks to the great work of the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition, word is spreading fast. Civics is Back in Illinois and thanks to the new Civics Law, the winds of change are among us. Help is coming: the #CivicsIsBack Summer Tour 2016! Two sessions down and running strong.

I’ve been a teacher for 25 years, but never really knew what I didn’t know. As one of your newest Illinois Democracy Schools, I can honestly say that I had not heard of the great work that was being done by organizations like The Constitutional Rights Foundation of Chicago, Facing History and Ourselves Chicago, and Mikva Challenge. Now, they are part of who we are at Oswego East High School.

We did not know how to help students find their voice, but the truth was actually clear; they know where it is, and what they want. Student Voice is alive and well in our schools. Students don’t need to learn to use their voice, they need to be listened to, and “given the wheel” of American Politics. But don’t just take my word for it, find out for yourself on July 26-27 at the CRFC/Mikva Challenge Summer Institute.

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