On the first Tuesday of each month, we email a newsletter to all of our supporters and prospective supporters catching them up on our work along with some commentary about current events in the world. Missed some, or want to go back and re-visit something you read months ago? Check out the compendium here:
Feb 23: Acting locally, growing nationally
February is a short month but it’s not THAT short—we’re sending out our First Tuesday newsletter for March a week early, because we want to share some exciting upcoming news, and request your participation!
This Thursday, February 25 from 7:00-8:30PM ET, we invite you to stream the #BHeard Future Voters Town Hall with New York City mayoral candidates that we are co-hosting with BRIC-TV and the New York City Campaign Finance Board. Five of our phenomenal YVote youth will be posing questions to candidates along with other engaged young people from across the city.
This event is different from the typical candidate “dog and pony show” in two key ways. First, all of the questions are being submitted and asked by young people, who are largely left out of the political process for municipal elections. Second, we’ve arranged for a format in which after each candidate answers, the dynamic MC will check with the youth questioner to see whether she or he feels the question was actually answered, and if not, the questioner will be able to ask a follow-up question. The evening will end with a 20-minute open conversation between the candidates and questioners in a more open, town hall-style format.
Thursday’s event is the kickoff of a season of civic learning we’ve been cooking up in collaboration with other civic organizations in the city (overview here). We’re excited to demonstrate how young people can take existing political formats and make them their own, infusing innovation, interactivity, and accountability. Next up will be a Civics Week Youth Forum on Thursday, March 11 from 4-6PM ET that is open to young people citywide who will analyze candidates’ answers (or lack thereof) from the Feb. 25 Town Hall event, along with other sources of data on the candidates, to see how their stated positions align with needs and priorities that are paramount to young voters. We’ve identified these needs and priorities through a citywide youth census YVoters were part of over the summer, and through Issue Scorecards our youth created around six priority issues.
This is part of our focus on channeling high schoolers’ passions into sustained voter and civic engagement, at the local and hyper-local (as well as state and federal) levels, in order to elevate The Youth Agenda in our cities. Youth are often a missing ingredient in the civic equation—less than 10% of 18 and 19 year olds voted in the New York City 2017 municipal elections, and rates are quite low in cities and towns across the country. Local elections are a point of entry and pipeline for broader forms of engagement, including interacting with local elected officials who have a more direct influence on day-to-day life—a direct influence that young people are often unaware of, and therefore not engaged in nor empowered to mobilize for change. We are working to change this, starting in New York and moving well beyond.
In January, our Next Generation Civic Fellows were fortunate to interact with Manhattan District Attorney candidate Lucy Lang in our Civic Forum on Criminal Justice, and in February, they learned about the New York City and State budgets with NYC Comptroller Candidate Reshma Patel. Experiences like these build knowledge—of our rising voters and of the candidates—while inviting youth to be part of the civic conversations that shape the fabric of our cities and lives.
Including young people in local elections, advocating for voting rights and reforms like ranked choice voting, and engaging in local civic life more broadly are aspects of our work that we are extremely enthusiastic to scale over the next four years. The 2020 federal election engendered record youth turnout (though we think it still falls far short of what it could and should be). That energy and inspiration now needs to be parlayed into work at the local level, with young people playing an instrumental role. We aim to leverage our New York experience developing inroads for students in local politics into helping students across the country do the same in their communities. Through this, we can scale from a New York-centric movement to a national one.
Here are some ways you can support our efforts:
- Stream this Thursday’s #BHeard Future Voters Town Hall at youtube.com/BRICTV. You can sign up to receive a reminder and access event information here.
- Encourage any and all young people you know in New York City to VOTE for YVote youth action proposals in the It’s Our Money Participatory Budgeting competition, which runs through this Friday, February 26 at 11:59 PM. This is a first-of-its-kind process through which youth determine how to allocate $100,000 of city funds to youth-initiated proposals. All New Yorkers ages 9-24 are eligible to participate by signing up at the NYC Civic Engagement Commission website. On their ballot, they can vote for our projects through the following direct links: Environmental Justice’s The Green Space Project, Gender/LGBTQ+ Justice’s Forever You & I and The Pride & The Proud Project, and Immigration’s The All-Star Program: Zoom Homework Help Me. Each voter can vote for up to five projects, and the five projects with the most votes will receive $20,000 each to implement their designs! One of our projects is currently just two votes away from being in the top five and every vote truly matters (there’s no electoral college here…).
- Subscribe to our weekly GenZ podcast The Round Table through any podcast platform of your choice. Over the past month we’ve had fantastic episodes on nonviolent movement building, diversifying newsrooms and audiences, and creating healthy civic discourse online, with an episode on creating deliberative democracy through community-based online platforms (i.e., not through Facebook) coming out later this week, followed by one on combating dangerous speech next week. We recently hit our “7,750th listen” milestone, and we are eager to continue broadening our listenership.
- Subscribe to our cross-partisan NGP blog, featuring recent articles like The Bipartisan Argument for Ending the Senate Filibuster; The Biden-Harris Administration’s First Steps in Mitigating Climate Change; and Looking Forward & Looking Back: Gen Z on Biden and Trump. We also just launched a Youth Arts Initiative to feature work at the intersection of art and civics/politics on our blog; if you know any budding young artists who might be interested, please encourage them to apply here.
- Donate to help us grow our reach. We’re at a critical inflection point in our efforts to help youth engage with crucial political issues at all levels of government alongside advocating for voting rights and voter engagement, and we would greatly appreciate your support.
We’re excited to continue the work of supporting and enhancing youth engagement in the political process—and in civic decision making processes. Many, many thanks for your support and enthusiasm for our efforts to date, without which none of this would be possible.
In Civic Solidarity,
P.S. Our Social Issues Cinema Club doesn’t want Black History Month to end—and we won’t let it, as we have a deep bench of nominated films that address different aspects of Black history that we intend to continue to watch together. This month, we’ve enjoyed watching Malcolm X, The Color Purple, and Hidden Figures to date, with five great nominees for this Saturday.
Feb 2: Out of the Wintry Shadows
Good ol’ Punxsatawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, meaning spring isn’t right around the corner. That’s OK. The groundhog’s weather forecast is an apt analogy for what’s happening in our country. We’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us, and things aren’t going to be resolved right away. That said, we are cautiously optimistic about being able to make positive progress within the framework of the newly-elected government in Washington and through our collective efforts.
Our Next Generation Politics teen podcast team records episodes on Wednesdays, so the events of the first three Wednesdays of the year kept us on our toes, to say the least. This recording schedule enabled us to process breaking events with our guests and our listeners in live time, from Insurrection to Impeachment to Inauguration. This past Wednesday we delved into a fourth important “I”: Integration. Our episodes over the course of the coming month will focus on nonviolent civil resistance—historically and globally; how to create change in newsrooms; social tie theory and norm development; shaping better public spaces both online and offline; and “dangerous speech.”
Our Social Issues Cinema Club hasn’t been slacking either, increasing teens’ understanding and insight about current events by watching White Noise (about leaders of the alt-right), Saving Capitalism, Mayor, and Knives Out (delving into the social commentary as much as the riveting mystery) in January. We’re super-excited about this month’s films, which will enable us to dive into different aspects of Black history chosen by participating youth.
Throughout our programming and conversations over the course of January, we were reminded that teens were in MIDDLE school during the last inauguration. Their whole coming of age has been steeped in the toxic partisanship, dysfunction, and distrust of government of the past four years. They’ve believed that another way is possible—and they’ve been working to make it so through mobilizing their peers to vote, deepening their civic knowledge, and working constructively across differences and divides. Our youth leaders are steadfast in their commitment to strengthening democracy and civil society.
They’re inspired by the first female Vice President and the first Vice President of African and South Asian descent. Three of our YVote youth—Kellen, Munaja, and Sharona—were featured in “This is something I can do now: What Kamala Harris’ ascension means for girls of color,” a recent article in Chalkbeat in which they shared their perspectives on this historic moment. Representation matters, and they’re heartened to see a more diverse Cabinet and the range of life experience appointees are bringing to the decision making table. Within our programs, we’ve been buckling down analyzing the First 100 Days of prior administrations and formulating recommendations for what we’d like to see transpire around each of our core issues of focus: criminal justice, environmental justice, gender & LGBTQ+ justice, immigration justice, and racial justice.
In the first half of 2021, we will be focusing on the unprecedented municipal elections in New York City, in which just about every office is up for grabs. Voter turnout is notoriously low in municipal elections—ESPECIALLY for young people. It’s a vicious cycle: young people don’t vote, so candidates don’t spend time cultivating them, so young people feel disinvested and therefore don’t vote. Lather, rinse, repeat. We are committed to changing the calculus and the culture on this front by having our youth engage with candidates EARLY in campaign season, starting with those running for Mayor:
- We are working with the NYC Campaign Finance Board and the Department of Youth and Community Development to co-host a Future Voters Festival/Mayoral Town Hall produced by BRIC-TV on Thursday, February 25 at 7PM (RSVP here). Young people from across the city will ask candidates their most pressing questions and will assess them using the Issue Scorecards our youth have produced.
- We will also be co-hosting a followup event as part of the NYC Department of Education’s Civics for All Week on Thursday, March 11 from 4-6PM, during which teens will drill more deeply into candidates’ responses, assess where they really stand, and consider how to hold them accountable for what they express.
These events will seed a Spring of Electoral Action in which our teens will lead peer-to-peer workshops on Ranked Choice Voting (new to NY this year!), understanding what decisions get made where and by whom in city and state government, and how to turn out the youth vote in unprecedented numbers for both the June primary and the general election in November.
Meanwhile, this weekend our Next Generation Civic Fellows will kick off their spring Civic Action Projects (CAPs), through which cross-school groups of students are tasked by organizational partners to tackle issues of authentic challenge. These CAPs engage Civic Fellows in college-level work addressing the cutting-edge social issues that most impact their generation. This helps them build the interest, agency, and skills necessary for civic leadership. Mark your calendars to join us for their final presentations on Sunday, May 16 from 1:30-3:30 PM EST.
We look forward to sharing more details about these ventures in future First Tuesday Newsletters. Please consider supporting Next Generation Politics this spring to make our vital work possible.
In Civic Solidarity,
Dec 29: In the Spirit of Reflection, Resilience, and Renewal
I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a year like no other. In December of last year, we could not possibly have imagined what this year has been, much as in October 2016, we could not have imagined what the next four years would bring. We have been surprised, and we have been sorely tested—almost to the breaking point.
There’s a fine line between breakdown and breakthrough, and it feels like that is what we are navigating. 2021 will undoubtedly be challenging, but it also has the potential to be transformative, with a new administration poised to take over, a vaccine rollout underway, and a citizenry that has demonstrated more resilience and engagement than we might have thought possible.
So now, we have an incredible opportunity to define what we want the next phase of our public life to look like. To NOT capitalize on this moment—to redefine and restructure what we want this country to be—would be a tragic missed opportunity. As we continue to struggle through a very dark period together, we can recognize that, as MLK Jr. noted so eloquently in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, we are bound “in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” We must work together. We cannot go back to the way things were, and going forward we must mend the divisions that are tearing us apart. We must blaze trails, collaboratively, to the ways that things can be. To do so requires a generation with the clarity, courage, and commitment to build a more diverse, inclusive, and vibrant culture in the United States.
Here’s the good news: GenZ has the potential to BE that generation. Born in the shadow of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina; living through the global economic collapse, Hurricane Sandy, and the Sandy Hook shootings as young children; and coming of age with Black Lives Matter, climate strikes, Parkland/March for our Lives, and COVID—this generation has never had it easy. Admirably, they’ve risen in response to the adversity they’ve experienced. It’s generated an appetite to create change.
What it HASN’T generated are the high quality pathways our young citizens will need to translate their raw passion into the skills and knowledge necessary to emerge as well-informed civic actors equipped to create and sustain the change our country needs. This is where programs like YVote and Next Generation Politics fit in. Our initiatives help GenZ develop and practice their civic engagement and activism. But don’t just listen to me—listen to some of our amazing young people describe their experiences and core learning from our programs:
- Mia on why she joined and what she’s learned
- Anthony on what he’s learned about voting and how it’s shaped his civic identity
- Madeline on how her participation has forged commitment to cross-partisanship and bridging political divides
- Talia on how she’s taken what she’s learned about voting to her school and the broader community
These are the reflective, responsible rising leaders we need. And there are so many more Mias and Anthonys and Madelines and Talias out there who we deeply want to serve and support.
This is where generous folks like YOU have come in. None of this would have been possible without your support. THANK YOU for helping us nurture and fortify the changemakers we need to help make the A.P. (After Pandemic) era all that we want and need it to be. If you have the desire and capacity to make an additional end of year, tax-deductible donation—or better yet, to encourage others to do so—we relish all resources to help us sustain and expand our work over the formative year ahead.
Youth voter turnout surged in 2020, demonstrating that young people—who comprise the largest, most diverse, and most progressive generation we’ve ever had in this country—can and will step up to determine the future of politics and civil society. They’ve experienced a great deal of loss and strife and it’s on us to support them in the civic sense-making and future-shaping they need to do. That’s what YVote and Next Generation Politics have been doing since our founding in 2017, with your vital support, and we are eager to expand our reach to as many vibrant GenZ citizens as we can.
THANK YOU for partnering with us, financially and well beyond, to fortify our collective future.
With gratitude and very warmest wishes for a brighter, bolder year ahead,
Dec 1: Gifts for the Ones You Love—AND for Our Democracy
If you’re like us, you’re probably being bombarded with emails asking for support for #GivingTuesday—which coincides with our First Tuesday monthly newsletter. A relatively new “holiday,” Giving Tuesday was created to counterbalance the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and to capitalize on one of Americans’ finest qualities: our generosity. Americans gave over $511 million online on Giving Tuesday last year, and this year’s giving is expected to be even higher, despite the global recession. It’s remarkable. YOU are remarkable.
Americans also spend A LOT on holiday gifts for one another. To the tune of about $240 billion, every year.
At YVote/Next Generation Politics, we’re all about blending in order to build young people’s civic identities and commitment: pizza AND politics, cinema AND social issues, podcasts AND blogs, activism AND civic education. And so, we’ve created a way for you to blend Giving Tuesday with gift-giving for everyone on your holiday shopping list—all with the click of a button. After all, who really needs or wants more THINGS this year? What most of us want is a stronger democracy and a healthier civil society.
Of course, this isn’t something one can easily order in a catalog—but it IS something we work tirelessly to develop with young people at YVote and Next Generation Politics—and we can do all the more with your support. And hey, wouldn’t it feel great to have your “holiday shopping” done on the very first day of the month?
So here’s the deal: today, and over the course of the next week, you can “shop” for your friends, family, and loved ones through our “civic supermarket” below. When you make a donation for any of the amounts below, note in the comments if it’s a gift. We’ll contact you to get delivery information for your gift recipient(s), who will be sent a personalized holiday card and an explanation of the gift made in their honor—and the impact of it. No Santa required. Even though Dr. Fauci says Santa has natural immunity from COVID, why risk it?
”Civic Supermarket” Gift Categories (Note: you can also color outside the lines, with whatever amount works best for you!)
- For $25, you and your loved ones can support a weekly screening of our Social Issues Cinema Club (check out recent titles here)
- For $50, you and your loved ones can support the production of one of our weekly podcast episodes (check out our episodes to date on Spotify, or on any podcast platform of your choice). Next up, we’ll be working on series on national identity, inclusion, and belonging as well as on power through multiple perspectives
- For $75, you and your loved ones can support YVote Peer Facilitators in conducting a workshop for schools and community groups (check out recent examples here)
- For $100, you and your loved ones can support a week of production of our “for GenZ, by GenZ” blog (recent pieces have focused on redefining Thanksgiving, procrastination, medical waste, the Abraham accords, the political voices of young women, Trump’s nuclear policy, and court reform)
- For $150, you and your loved ones can provide a semester stipend for one of our (amazing) YVote activists who participate in biweekly forums to build their civic knowledge, leadership, and facilitation skills
- For $250, you and your loved ones can help support the next phase of our groundbreaking Civic Resilience study
- For $500, you and your loved ones can help underwrite the work we’re doing to develop two big events in March:
- A Youth Town Hall with NYC Mayoral Candidates on March 12, 2021 to galvanize commitment to The Youth Agenda that YVoters are working on with other youth from across the city
- A 50th “Birthday Party” for the anniversary of the 26th Amendment on March 23, 2021 to celebrate the lowering of the voting age—and to propel efforts around pre-registration of 16 and 17 year olds
“Rebuilding trust is, obviously, the work of a generation.” This line, from a New York Times column last week, couldn’t be more true. It applies to trust in one another AND in our government—both are at the heart of our work in YVote and Next Generation Politics. With just 17% of Americans reporting in 2019 that they trust the federal government to do what is right (and since the pandemic started, we doubt it’s gone up…), we’ve got our work cut out for us. Fortunately, there’s a lot more support for the role that citizens feel our government SHOULD play, across party lines. Indeed, 75% of Democrats and half of Republicans note that the government should play a major role in 10 major areas, ranging from managing immigration and maintaining infrastructure to ensuring access to health care and helping people get out of poverty. Why the disconnect? Citizens have lost faith in the elected officials and their willingness and ability to do the cross-partisan work needed to translate ideals into effective policies.
Our work at YVote/Next Generation Politics is to make the disconnect a reconnect. We are building a youth civic movement that engages and educates the rising generation, equipping them with the capacity and commitment to reinvest in our civic infrastructure. Surveys of our YVoters, Next Gen Civic Fellows, and alumni show that our young people score highly in measures of active coping, hope for the future, and positive reframing—all of which correlate positively with civic efficacy and resilience.
We all can, and must, do our part. These skills are the most precious gifts we can give to the next generation, to our loved ones, and to ourselves. Thank you for your vital support to date and for any additional investment you can make in our future!
Your Civic Santa,
Nov 10: How We Got Here—And Where We Go From Here
If you’re like us, hopefully by now your blood pressure is starting to normalize, your appetite is returning, and you’re sleeping through the night without endless doomstrolling. Let’s face it… it has been a tense
month four years.
Four years ago, like many of us, I was dazed and confused by the 2016 election and the deep national divides it exposed. It felt like a complete breakdown in the civic fabric of our nation and, having spent my career in education and youth development, I took it personally. How had we come to this? Retrospectively, it was easy to see how and why. And it was clear to me that there was nothing I wanted to do more than reverse the troubling trends by working with young people to build civic education, trust, commitment, and engagement.
HOW to do this wasn’t as obvious. I immersed myself in an inquiry process, at the root of which was the question “why vote?” when there were so many reasons, or justifications, for many people NOT to vote.
I cooked up a concept paper based on my initial inklings. Many of you were kind enough to read it and share feedback, connect me to others, critique or encourage me (both were useful!), and partner and support in invaluable ways. I initially hoped to identify and join an organization that was doing the work I thought was most needed to galvanize young people at and beyond the ballot box. When it became clear that the dream organization I was looking for didn’t exist, I realized I’d have to create it… which was just about the last thing I wanted to take on in early 2017. But with necessity as the mother of invention, and fear of losing our democracy as the father, YVote was born in late spring 2017 with a small team of pioneers. We kicked into high gear right out of the gate, recruiting 50 teens from 20 high schools all across New York City to experiment with and explore a new model for peer-led civic activism that summer.
What we experienced together confirmed my initial hypothesis: many young people ache to be civically engaged, they just lack meaningful on-ramps, in and beyond school, that help them connect their passions with how they can make a difference. In response, we developed two complementary prongs of programming, both of which seemed vital to addressing the mess our country found itself in:
- YVote, to help youth make a direct connection to voting and the collective power they possess—as part of the largest, most diverse, and most progressive generation our country has ever had—in order to be able to transform the political landscape
- Next Generation Politics, to bring youth together across differences and divides to grapple with complex civic issues from multiple perspectives, framed in the context of current events, in order to identify solutions that resonate with people across the ideological spectrum
As proponents of youth-centered design, we grew these initiatives from the ground up with core youth stakeholders—and with very few resources. We couldn’t seek traditional institutional grants because we were committed to being authentically engaged in an inquiry and discovery process with young people, which defied the targeting of defined, easily measurable outcomes. This orientation has been instrumental to the power of the work we do, but we would not have been able to get it off the ground, or grow it over the past three and a half years, without your grassroots faith and investment in us. We truly can’t thank you enough.
The good news is, your investment paid off. The relatively modest amount you have invested in us had a ripple effect, helping us create effective approaches, pilot flagship programs in New York, and work with dozens of youth-focused organizations across the country to lean into building a youth civic engagement movement. We launched an “18 in ‘18” initiative in January 2018 to target first-time voters across the country; the Parkland tragedy the following month further ignited interest and urgency in the efforts we were undertaking. The Parkland teens put voting front and center in their activist agenda, broadening the action space for us (and other organizations) from coast to coast, in the interest of bolstering a culture of youth activism and youth voting. We committed to working with teens from a broad racial and socioeconomic spectrum to make sure the movement was inclusive and equitable. Youth voter turnout in the November 2018 midterms strongly validated our views, and we continued full steam ahead, crafting our #2020VisionForChange campaign and our most recent #AutumnOfAction.
While data is still flowing in and may fluctuate, as of today it looks like about 53% of eligible youth voters cast votes in this election versus 42-45% in 2016, contributing to the highest overall voter turnout we’ve had since 1900 (!!!). Youth aged 18-29 comprised 17% of the national vote share, and will continue to grow. Further, the youth vote in several states likely had a decisive effect on the election outcome, particularly in states like Georgia, where young people comprised 21% of the vote share. Here are a few findings of particular interest:
- Check out this state by state analysis by CIRCLE, inclusive of youth share of the vote (the percentage of all votes in a state cast by young people ages 18-29) and the choice for President by voters in the youngest age group.
- Among young White voters, there were significant differences by gender. Young White men were evenly split in their support of Biden and Trump, while young White women supported Biden over Trump by 18 percentage points, 57% to 39%.
- Support for Biden was highest among young voters of color. While White voters under age 30 preferred Biden by an 11% margin (53% versus 42%), young Black, Asian, and Latino voters supported Biden by margins of 76, 69, and 51 percentage points, respectively.
- While there is always variance in youth vote by race/ethnicity, this year, in key states like North Carolina and Georgia, the differences were particularly enormous, as 90%+ of young Black voters supported Biden, while White youth in those states narrowly backed Trump.
As you can see, there are some very real differences, with very real implications for the future and for our work.
Beyond the results of this one election—critically important though it is—at the root of our efforts is commitment to building individual and collective civic agency for our teens, along with the ability to work together towards shared goals. By this, we mean helping young people recognize that they can and must take action to make a difference in their lives, their communities, and their country. This is the fundamental building block in everything that we do with young people, which we then augment with the skills, knowledge, and networks for them to become effective advocates and social changemakers—and the rising civic leaders we sorely need.
So what’s next, now that there’s not an imminent election on the horizon (beyond in Georgia, where we’ll be encouraging our youth to support on-the-ground efforts with young voters)?
- Focusing even more deeply on the bridge-building objectives of our Next Generation Politics Civic Fellowship and Civic Forums, blog, and podcasts, which help teens to develop the dispositions and skills needed to work effectively across the aisle and across ALL the identity factors that can get in the way of constructive, collaborative civic dialogue. Next up: our Civic Forum on Structural Racism this Sunday, Nov 15 from 1-3:30 PM EST
- Advocating for youth voting rights and reforms (in New York and nationally) that are proven to increase voter engagement (e.g., online voter registration, same day registration, polling sites on college campuses, democracy vouchers)
- Leading efforts to generate The Youth Agenda in the municipal elections of New York in 2021, in which the Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, four out of five Borough Presidents, several borough District Attorneys, and over 35 open City Council seats will be at play. Young people can have tremendous influence in municipal elections (with an eye toward greatly improving upon the 18% participation in the last one…)
This election was far from a silver bullet. As George Washington counseled Alexander Hamilton (at least in the musical Hamilton, and we like to think IRL too): “Winning is easy, young man… governing is harder.” Winning WASN’T easy, and governing IS going to be really hard. Helping young people interpret and understand what’s happening; advocate and hold politicians accountable for changes we need; work constructively with other young people with lived experiences and belief systems very different than their own; and build and maintain belief in civic institutions and processes—these are critical ingredients in rebuilding civil society and working toward the ideals this country was founded upon yet has never fully achieved. We feel deeply honored and excited to tackle this work over the months and years to come. We also feel deeply honored and grateful for your support in enabling us to do so, and hope you will continue to support us as we continue to grow.
We hope you feel proud of yourselves—as proud as we are—for being partners in this vital work to restore the soul of our nation.
P.S. Check out our most recent podcasts The World Is Watching Us and There Will Be Litigation; our most recent blogs The 2020 Presidential Election: GenZ Reacts, The Agora: What a Biden Presidency Means for the Left, and Our Two Party System is Destroying America; videos from our recent YVote Peer Leaders Forum and our workshop on “The Right Side of the Aisle: What’s Up with Conservatism?”; and two great features about YVote youth: “For these teens, the election season has been a political awakening” in Chalkbeat and “YVote: Youth Civic Engagement That Starts With Voting” in The Norwood News.
P.P.S. Please join me (via livestream) on Tuesday, November 17 at 6PM EST for the first-ever [email protected] event, showcasing talks and performances from Brooklyn LAB and other high school students, addressing topics ranging from GenZ’s unique mental health coping mechanisms, demands for equitable media representation for activist movements (I have the pleasure of introducing this amazing teen), propositions to attain racial equality by starting with reparations for Foundational Black Americans, and more!
October 27: Fired Up, Ready to VOTE
Don’t worry, you didn’t blink and miss a week! We’re distributing our First Tuesday newsletter a week early because, as you know, we’ll all be a little busy (and stressed) next Tuesday. I’ll be a poll worker for the first time, alongside a number of our YVote youth, at a time when having young people work the polls is more important than ever. We hope this year will lay the foundation for transforming poll working in the future, alongside other much-needed electoral reforms that have become starkly apparent this season and that we’ll be continuing to advocate for.
We suspect you’ve been following early findings about early voting (we’ve been scrutinizing statistics from the U.S. Election Project more closely than some follow the stock market…) As of 6pm EDT today, over 69.6 million people—more than 50% of the total 2016 turnout!—have voted through a combination of early in-person voting and mail-in voting (as of now, split almost exactly ⅓ and ⅔, respectively). This level of early voting participation is both incredibly inspiring and entirely unprecedented.
Further heartening to us: early voting data available through TargetEarly is finding higher youth involvement and early voting rates than in either 2016 or 2018 (higher by 30%+). Youth voter participation may ultimately be as high as 2008’s record-breaking youth vote. As of October 23, more than 5 million young people have already cast ballots—you can check out the youth voting pattern to date in 14 key states here. This is particularly heartening given the significant barriers to youth voter registration this year, as we’ve detailed in past newsletters—for example, over 430,000 18-29 year olds (37.4%) in NYC are not registered due in part to the lack of online voter registration.
Uplifting as this turnout is, voting rights issues are occurring, and some give us pause. In many states, attempting to vote has meant waiting in long lines, navigating a confusing election infrastructure, and overcoming some obnoxious and even menacing attempts at voter intimidation. As you may have heard, yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in favor of Wisconsin Republicans who want to block the counting of votes postmarked before Election Day but received after it, despite the pandemic, and despite what happened there just earlier this year! (For this year’s primary in Wisconsin, 80,000 ballots that were postmarked in time but arrived after Election Day were counted; for this election, however, such late ballots will be rejected.)
A similar block was recently turned down in Pennsylvania by SCOTUS, but the vote was tied 4-4 (and thus the lower court ruling held). With Amy Coney Barrett now confirmed on the Supreme Court, Republicans have sued again trying to get this decision overturned, which may well happen. With these cases, hundreds of thousands of otherwise valid mail-in ballots may be rejected for no reason other than that they arrive too late!
In the face of all this, our youth have been doing phenomenal work, which we are excited to highlight briefly:
- Our YVoters have created very powerful Youth Voting Guides and Issue Scorecards through which to educate and empower other young people across the country. The Guides and Scorecards are chock full of information and inspiration to cast an informed vote, addressing issues young voters are passionate about.
- We launched a YVote Peer Leadership track, designed to strengthen young leaders’ facilitation skills and complement our fuller YVote cohort and action groups. Fantastic initial meetings have already been held (recorded videos here and here).
- Our YVoters have been conducting peer-to-peer workshops across and beyond New York, including Youth Vote, Youth Power: Unleashing the Youth Wave in the Bronx, Intro to Capitalism & Socialism—and Their Implications for Elections, Finding Your Civic Voice for city-wide youth activists, “Why Vote: How You Can Make a Difference At and Beyond the Ballot Box” for homeless and transient youth for Covenant House, Why Vote for Immigration Justice for Queens Tech/Sunnyside Community Services, Vote by Design for Civic Spirit, another Vote by Design for YouthBridge, and Digital Activism for Nassau County Youth Council. Keep up with our workshops through our Calendar of Events and let us know if you’re interested in joining us for any of them—or having us conduct a workshop for YOUR community!
- We were proud of YVoter Kenisha Mahajan for serving as a panelist—the only high school voice on the panel—at this fantastic discussion of the film Rigged: The Voter Suppression Handbook.
- We conducted a powerful Civic Forum focused on What’s Entailed in Free & Fair Elections and the Role of Young People for our 70 Next Gen Civic Fellows this Sunday. You can check out video from the day here. Next up: a Civic Forum on Structural Racism on Nov 15.
- Our blog is going strong, with the highlight being the cross-partisan dialogues we conducted during the presidential and vice-presidential debates and Town Halls. See our youth’s real-time take on them here and here.
- Our podcast keeps getting better and better, with great episodes including RBG is Gone, Now What? with the founder of the High School SCOTUS blog, It’s a Shame Nothing’s Happening in the News, and Burlington Beyond Bernie with one of our founding Civic Fellows. Later this week we’ll air an episode with Laura Wolk, a recent Supreme Court Clerk for Clarence Thomas who testified at the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings. Early next week, we will have an episode with our teens interviewing Susan Lerner, the head of Common Cause New York.
Needless to say, we’ve got a very full week ahead of us—and thanks to your vital support to date, we’re brewing lots of plans beyond that, which we look forward to sharing in our post-election newsletter. So what can YOU do to FURTHER assist and amplify our work?
- Support our work during this all important final stretch, including the big Trick or Treat for Democracy: A YVote Afternoon of Action we’re conducting this Saturday for 50 of our YVoters and alums.
- We have just FIVE more masks left (check out supporter Mika Rao sporting her YVote mask on Nightline last night). If you want to claim one for yourself, make a donation of at least $50, which will also provide a mask for an incoming YVoter!
- Learn more about the work of YVote by attending one of the upcoming events our youth will be participating in:
- TOMORROW, Wed, Oct 28, 5-6:30 PM—Youth Civic Engagement: Beyond Voting panel with Solar One, featuring YVoters Karla, Katrice, Kekeli, Maisha, and Milena. Sign up here
- Thurs, Oct 29, 5-6PM—I Can’t But You Can Vote panel featuring YVoters Yessii & Yuleimy, as well as reps from Galeo, Latino Community Fund, BronxNet. Register here
- Fri, Oct 30, 6PM—YVote Instagram Live on Youth Voting with the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD)
- Sat, Oct 31, 12-4PM—Trick or Treat for Democracy: A YVote Afternoon of Action, in which we’ll be reaching out to prospective young voters through text, phone, social media and other mediums to help ensure they have solid plans to vote
- Check out three of our YVoters (Angelina, Anthony, and Mia) on BronxNet Open talking about YVote and youth voting this weekend: Fri at 7AM, 10AM, 5PM, and 8PM; Sat at 10AM, 5PM, and 8PM; and Sun at 10AM
- Peruse and share some recent writing by and about YVote, including:
If you have just one minute, check out this 1-min video produced by a group of our YVote youth this afternoon. We might just try to make it go viral on TikTok… If it whets your appetite, you might want to pop over to our Instagram to check out some of our other great teen-created videos, like this one.
So fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy week (and most likely beyond). We’ll get through it together, as we work toward building the stronger, more equitable, more just society we need and deserve. And most importantly, VOTE!
In Civic Solidarity,
October: Vote Like We’re Running Out Of Time
It’s been said that “there are decades when nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.” Indeed last week was one of them. September’s First Tuesday newsletter feels like a quaint relic of a bygone age. A time when RBG was still alive, when we didn’t rush through Supreme Court judges right before an election, and when Presidential candidates didn’t fail to commit to a peaceful transition of power or to rebuke white supremacy. Nothing is simple about the time we are living through. Helping students make sense of it—and build the skills, knowledge, and networks necessary to navigate it— is more important than ever. We are so grateful for the support you have provided in enabling us to do just this.
For 17 million Americans, one month from today will mark their first opportunity to vote in a Presidential election. Generation Z (age 18-23) will comprise 10% of the eligible electorate—up from just 4% in 2016. We want every single one of them to be well-positioned to cast a vote, and not fail to do so due to a lack of information, motivation, or mobilization. Over the next 28 days, the youth of YVote and Next Generation Politics will be doing everything we can to ensure that young voters make their votes and their democratic voice count on November 3 and beyond.
So, what can you do–and encourage OTHERS to do– if you want to further support our work? We’re so glad you asked!
- Donate to support a peer-to-peer workshop for groups of under-enfranchised youth. Each workshop costs between $100-250, as they are custom-designed and facilitated by groups of talented, paid teens. Examples of such workshops are discussed further below.
- Order a YVote mask to keep yourself and others safe as we keep democracy safe. We ask for a minimum donation of $25 to pay for a mask for you AND for one of our YVoters.
- Invite our YVoters to lead a POWERFUL peer-to-peer workshop for teens in your classroom, school, youth group, or neighborhood.
- Give our podcast a listen, or subscribe to our blog and become our 3,780th subscriber. (We’re really targeting growth this year!)
- Follow us for a @YVoteNY Instagram Live at 7PM ET every night this week, as YVoters will be answering ANY AND ALL questions about voting: how to register online, find your polling place, check your registration status, apply for an absentee ballot, etc.
- Join us on @NextGenPol Instagram Live on October 8 at 8PM ET—the night after the Vice Presidential Debate—for civil discourse between conservative and liberal teens about the debate—and the broader political moment—to demonstrate that cross-partisan civil discourse CAN be done.
- Sign up for Activating the Supermajority, a night of text and phone banking with moi (and perhaps a big glass of wine) on Monday, October 12, 7:30-9PM ET to honor Indigenous People’s Day. Come experience how fun voter outreach can be!
Indeed, the past month HAS felt a bit like a decade. Here are some of our recent highlights:
- We launched our fall season of YVote on September 15 with 65 YVoters progressing to a more advanced #AutumnOfAction track. Participants are crafting action plans and committing to an array of activities, from designing and facilitating peer-to-peer workshops and resources to texting and calling immigrant voters, first time voters in battleground states, and ex-felons in Florida.
- We also launched an elite Leadership Tier for 30 YVoters on September 29, for youth being trained to become peer leaders and mentors, as well as another track for 25 teens new to YVote from across NYC
- The goal: have hundreds of YVoters reach thousands of prospective voters. This week alone, in honor of National Voter Education Week, we’re conducting a “Youth Vote, Youth Power: Unleashing the Youth Wave,” workshop for the Bronx, an Intro to Capitalism & Socialism—and their implications for elections workshop, a Finding Your Civic Voice workshop in collaboration with youth activists, a “Why Vote: How You Can Make a Difference At and Beyond the Ballot Box” workshop for homeless and transient youth with Covenant House (and another for Queens Tech/Sunnyside Community Services), and a Vote by Design workshop with Civic Spirit. Check out our Calendar of Events and let us know if you’re interested in joining us for any of them!
- We kicked off a new season of our Next Generation Civic Fellowship, with 65 teens from across 26 schools—half public, half private—led by 14 fantastic Lead Civic Fellows who have ascended from last year’s Fellowship. On October 4 we launched with a full day Civic Orientation—five hours, on Zoom, on a Sunday, exploring individual and collective identity, how to cultivate safe and courageous space for deliberation and civil discourse, very American themes and tensions within the Constitution, and what free speech means in 2020 America. Every Fellow was highly engaged and voiced full-throated commitment to honoring and engaging with perspectives different from their own. Check out the jamboard of Civic Commitments they crafted at the end of the day. It was a microcosm of the world we want to live in—and the world our teen leaders are committed to creating.
- We are in the news! YVote was honored to be featured in an 8-minute video segment on BronxNet TV over the weekend, as well as to be referenced in New York Seeks to Counter Sharp Drop in Registered Young Voters in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. YVote and one of our wonderful YVoters, Mia Payne, will be profiled in an article in the Bronx Times later this week.
- We have a fleet of youth with GREAT stories who would love to speak with the press about the urgency of the youth vote, so if you have any press contacts for us, please let us know!
- We’ve been helping youth register as poll workers—a vital need this election and beyond—and uncovering and addressing significant barriers and challenges. We’ve worked with partners on an Open Letter to the Board of Elections to advocate for deeply-needed changes in the process.
- Our podcast, The Round Table, celebrated its first anniversary! This week will mark our 53rd episode, an exciting interview with the founder of High School SCOTUS focused on helping teens understand the courts and their implications for politics—and our lives. We’ve brought on four new podcasters to succeed those who have graduated. We produced GREAT episodes this month including To Open or Not to Open (Schools)? That’s the 130,930 Question, Will Facebook Do It? (that is, ban political ads), Making Sense of the Census, and our current Time To Wake Up to Politics with the 18 year old founder of a daily newsletter that goes to 50,000 subscribers (!!!).
- Our blog also has a new leadership team. In addition to powerful pieces like Voting Over Time: Inscribed Barriers and Remembering RBG: A Collection of Stories, we’ve launched a new weekly feature called The Agora, modeled after the public square where Greeks conducted their public lives and aiming to help us rebuild the notion of the “polis” for modern times.
- Our Social (Distancing) Cinema Club is going strong every Saturday night, keeping teens safe inside as they educate themselves and one another about key social issues of our time. This month we watched and had great conversations about A Girl Like Grace, RBG, On The Basis of Sex, and The Social Dilemma—all highly recommended viewing.
- It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s YVote on taxi tops! Yup, if you’re in Manhattan between October 12 and 14, look around and you just might see a fantastic “Youth Vote Early” PSA designed by YVoters, in collaboration with the incredible Kim Sillen, on top of a fleet of NYC taxi cabs (which we imagine are a lot easier to hail these days…).
This is a disquieting time. You’re right to feel anxious. But you are not impotent. You are a critical partner in creating the generational political change we need.
September: Changing the Calculus, Activating Young Voters
Young voters are the holy grail in elections and for good reason: it’s notoriously difficult to get them to turn out to vote. After the 2016 election, we were haunted by the dismally low youth turnout (a mere 36% of 18-19 year olds), combined with the outsized impact we knew they COULD have as the largest, most diverse, most progressive generation in our country. We set out to figure out why (don’t young people) vote through creating inquiry-based initiatives to work with a broad array of diverse teens. We quickly learned that most youth voter initiatives:
- Were too transactional
- Targeted youth too late
- Didn’t connect with teens’ core interests and aspirations
We believed we could marry the principles of positive youth development with high-quality (and all-too-rare-in-schools) civic and voter education to build the kind of programming ALL young people should benefit from. So in the summer of 2017, we worked with 50 teens to co-design and test our first program to build an early motivational runway for diverse youth in high school all across New York City. Our goal: to mobilize teens at the peak of identity formation by tapping into their passions and helping them understand how they can create transformative change, at and beyond the ballot box, by utilizing their collective electoral power.
Flash forward through three years of iterating and expanding during which we’ve had the privilege of working closely and deeply with over 800 youth, and more peripherally with thousands more through workshops, registration drives, and outreach. We’re heartened to have confirmed our hypotheses with a broad array of diverse young voters who, through engaging in our issue-based programming within a community of peers, become voting ambassadors and warriors for their schools and communities. Check out a few examples from recent Instagram takeovers YVoters Kodi, Jessie, and Yuleimy have done on gender justice– and stay tuned for social media takeovers from all of our Issue Action Groups.
This summer, we had the pleasure of working with our largest group yet–a cross section of 120 youth from 70 different high schools across the five boroughs of New York for YVote, 13 incredible peer facilitators, and 45 Civic Fellows through our Next Gen Civic Forums. Over the course of seven summer sessions in YVote, participants’ eyes were opened and their commitment sparked. They patiently devoted 3 hours a night to (interactive) Zoom forums (!) They spent 6+ hours immersed in a (powerful) Day of Action on a sunny summer Saturday. They conducted OUTSTANDING, informative Teach-Ins to galvanize peers. And they emerged empowered and equipped to educate and engage peers in, and far beyond, their school communities, over the next few months and the next many years.
We are committed to our students’ continued growth and success in all spheres and so conducted a stellar session last week for 50 of our YVoters on What You Don’t Know and SHOULD Know about Applying To, and Prepping for, College featuring six of our road-tested experts–AKA some of our ace college students. This afternoon (momentarily!), we’ll be running a full-throttle session on “Recipe of a Bill” through which YVoters will serve as Congress Members for bills around the issues they’re passionate about to better understand the challenges and opportunities of the legislative process.
Meanwhile, this month Civic Fellows in our Next Gen Summer Civic Forums were deepening their knowledge of, and commitment to, engaging with different perspectives on civic issues and current events through Civic Forums focused on Ensuring Free & Fair Elections, Criminal Justice reform, and Media Literacy. This is a complementary part of building a more informed, engaged electorate committed to interacting constructively across differences and divides.
We continue to produce and engage teens in high quality media to increase their knowledge, understanding, and commitment to action:
- Highlights from this month’s podcasts include Real Talk–with the Founders of It, Sounds Like Comma-la, The Making of a Great Speech–And a Great Speechwriter, and How Inclusive IS America
- Highlights from our blogs include From Lexington to Portland, The Connection Between Prejudice and Aging in the Midst of a Movement, Why We Should Consider Compulsory Voting, and Don’t Let Congress Silently Rebrand the PATRIOT Act
- Our teen Social Cinema Club watched BlackKklansmen, Good Trouble, When They See Us, I Am Not Your Negro, Harriet, and Parasite
Want to learn more about our work? Check out this video podcast interview with me and two of our YVoters that went live yesterday through Hot Paper Lantern, which has adopted us to support our efforts over the next 90 days. You can also read about us in a great article published last week on Stepping Up to End Voter Suppression
Want to support our work–or encourage others to? Here are some of the ways you can:
- Purchase a YVote mask (see samples here on some of our YVoters) for a donation of $25 (or ideally multiples of that) and we’ll send both you AND a YVoter one of our chic-and-safe adornments–just note “Masks” in the comments
- Encourage teens you know and love in NY to join YVote and/or our Next Gen Civic Fellowship this fall (check out this promo video of last year’s Fellowship, in the before times..)
- Follow us on Instagram at @YVoteNY and @NextGenPol as we strive to amplify our social media impact this fall
Kamala Harris concluded her Vice Presidential acceptance speech with words that really resonate with us, “ So let’s fight with conviction. Let’s fight with hope. Let’s fight with confidence in ourselves and a commitment to each other, to an America we know is possible. The America we love. And years from now, this moment will have passed, and our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and they’re going to ask us, “where were you when the stakes were so high?” And will tell them, not just how we felt, we will tell them WHAT WE DID.”
Thank you for all you are doing, and for supporting us in doing all that we are doing.
With gratitude 63 days out,
August: 91 days–but who’s counting?
We are! Never has an election been more important. Nor more complicated. And it is a mere 13 weeks away. According to NYCVotes, as of June, 37.4% of eligible New Yorkers aged 18-29 are not registered to vote. Nationally, 20 million college students’ votes are in peril. At a time when more than half of all Americans are millennials or younger and have the potential to transform the electorate, this is a big problem.
Luckily, the young civic leaders of YVote/Next Generation Politics are rising to the challenges and opportunities of our time. As we shared last month, in light of the pandemic compromising so many opportunities, we’ve dramatically expanded our programming, tripled the number of students we engage directly (aiming for geometric growth in the number we engage indirectly through them), and shifted to an exclusively online interaction model. We’re happy to report that the first three weeks of our summer programming have been a smashing success, exceeding our expectations as the youth we work with continually do.
And all of this is thanks to your amazing support! We have raised $24,472 in donations and grants over the past two months inclusive of my birthday fundraiser on Facebook last week. Thank you thank you thank you. Your generosity has helped to fully fund this dramatic growth in student engagement.
In the first three weeks of YVote this summer, our 120 outstanding YVoters have addressed:
- the State of (Youth) Voting Today in the USA, playing a series of games to build knowledge and community while having a good time;
- historic and current barriers to voting, including the creation of visual timelines of the last 244 years of voting rights and wrongs, along with reading about recent travesties in GA, WI, and FL, which underscore that the right to vote has always been a fight to vote;
- current perceptions of voting, acquired by interviewing friends and family for their stories and beliefs (no big surprise: many have unfavorable opinions related to lack of influence, inconvenience, and barriers to access to the vote); and
- ways to motivate and mobilize peers, including flash-producing pitches to their peers about why they should vote, as viewed through the lens of our core issues of focus: inequality, climate, criminal, gender, immigration, and racial justice.
We’ve also designed and run several youth voter engagement workshops for other youth groups, including for the Why Voting Matters for the NYC Youth Civics Initiative and Voting in the Age of COVID for Global Kids. This week YVoters will be analyzing the Electoral College, its implications, and what kinds of changes they’d advocate for, as well as creating youth-friendly issue-based score cards for candidates. They’ll also be participating in a powerful Day of Action this Saturday, engaging in workshops run by our YVote Peer Facilitators and wonderful community partners. Our goal for the day is to provide them with in-depth, immersive experiences with a campaign, community, and/or civic issue to provide an authentic window into civic or political work while building skill(s) and knowledge. These workshops include:
- Training to Become (Paid) Youth Poll Worker
- What Is Organizing and Using Social Media through an Activist Lens
- A View from the Public Advocate’s Office & What It Means To Be a Watchdog
- How to Organize and Message for a Local City Council Race
- Creative Ways to Reach your Elected Officials
- Using the Power of Your Voice: How To Develop Testimony For State and City Legislatures
- The Right Side of the Aisle: What’s Up With Conservatism?; and
- Campaigning 101
An overview of our summer sessions can be found here.
In the first three weeks of our Next Gen Politics Civic Forums, our 45 wonderful Civic Fellows from around the country have engaged with a weekly provocation:
- What is Civil Discourse, and why is it worth engaging in?
- What would a just and equitable criminal justice system look like, and how do we create it?
- Can free speech go too far? Where is the line between free speech and hate speech?
As you can imagine, the deliberations have been heated—yet very constructive. Our Civic Forums are built on the philosophy that it is only through grappling with thorny issues like these from multiple perspectives (and with people very different from one’s self) that we build the civic muscles we need to bridge the divides that are tearing our country apart. This week we’ll be focusing on “How can we ensure free and fair elections that enable all citizens, particularly young citizens, to vote and have a voice?” Needless to say, we’re looking forward to what they come up with!
Our blog and podcast continue to go strong.
- Check out our recent podcast episodes: Why Is the House Burning with Julian Zelizer, Looking at the Nuts and Bolts of Democracy with the Bipartisan Policy Center, Follow the Money: Creating Generational Wealth with OneFiveTen, Limitless Parties: Lawmaking in a Polarized Era with Frances Lee
- Check out some of our 13 dynamic blog posts from the month, on an variety of timely civic topics such as Everything Wrong with America’s Policing System; The Harsh Reality of Systemic Racism in America; and A House Divided Stands Firm: How Partisanship Makes Our Politics Stronger (but really, they’re all so interesting)
We’re immensely proud of these “for Gen Z, by Gen Z” vehicles, through which youth are expressing themselves and interacting with one another during a time that can feel very isolating and scary. This will be crucially important in the fall, and we’re already brewing up new programming amidst our summer of action to support this.
So what can you do to support our work?
- Loan us your professional Zoom Account (if you have one) to support concurrent workshops for YVote’s Day of Action this Saturday, August 8 from 11AM-3PM EDT—please email me if you can.
- Get a taste of our young leaders’ work by joining us for the debrief of our Day of Action (Saturday, August 8 from 3-4PM EDT.) YVoters will share skills and knowledge they acquired through the day’s programming with one another, and/or
- Join us for our YVote Teach-Ins, at which YVoters will share their work from the summer and illustrate how they will be translating it into turning out prospective voters in their school communities and nationally. The Teach-Ins will be held on Tuesday, August 18 and Thursday, August 20 from 7-8PM EDT—please email me if you’d like to join either.
- Donate to our #2020VisionForChange Campaign and/or encourage friends, family, and strangers to do so. Your donations are what enable our greatly enhanced and expanded programming to run.
91 days is only 2,184 hours, or 131,040 minutes, or 7,862,400 seconds. We’re going to use every last moment to the advantage of our country’s future, and we hope you’ll support us in doing so.
With great thanks for your allyship,
July: Our Unprecedented Summer, By the Numbers
The last month has been incredible for YVote/Next Generation Politics. In response to the dramatic social changes swirling around us, and the level of civic activism being demonstrated all across the country, we are preparing to launch our biggest season of summer programming ever.
Here was our June 2020 by the numbers:
- 499 applicants for YVote—10x the number we had planned to admit
- 241 youth interviewed—about 50% of the overall applicants we received
- 124 YVoters selected—meet them here
- 69 NYC high schools represented
- 46 different self-identified ethnicities, represented by the attached racial/ethnic cohort profile
- 45 additional Civic Fellows chosen for a national Summer Civic Fellowship we launched in response to significant appetite for direct civic engagement combined with limited applicable programming available for teens this summer
- 12 AMAZING near-peer facilitators co-constructing and facilitating all aspects of our programming, half of whom were founding YVote youth in the Summer of 2017
- 8 blog articles written by Next Gen Politics teen writers from 7 different states
- 6 different Issue Action Groups that YVoters have opted into–Inequality/Affordability, Climate Justice, Criminal Justice, Gender Justice, Immigration Justice, Racial Justice. Through these groups, they will develop expertise on core aspects of each issue, and learn how to appeal to voters who care about that issue, inclusive of creating Candidate Score Cards
- 5 films shown to and discussed by teens in our NGP Social (Distancing) Issues Cinema Club: Just Mercy, Do The Right Thing, The Story of Plastic, 13th, and, wait for it, wait for it, Hamilton
- 5 podcast episodes recorded, produced, and released: A Woman of Conviction, What do Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Barack Obama Have In Common?, Building Hope–Brick By Brick, This Moment—and What We Can Learn from Movements, and What’s Criminal About the Criminal Justice System
- 3 collaborative projects being hatched with wonderful partners:
- How To Apply for a Campaign Internship and an extensive well-organized database of political campaigns, through which teens (or people of any age) can volunteer, courtesy of Blue Ripple Politics (please share this with any politically-minded teens in your life!)
- Thinking For Ourselves: Engaging Rising Leaders in Becoming Thought Leaders, a collaboration with Sam Abrams of the American Enterprise Institute and Sara Lawrence College, to help teens engage productively with online think tank events across the ideological spectrum
- Civic Resilience in the Age of Polarization and Acceleration: Understanding and Empowering Youth Across Differences and Divides, which examines the impact of current political, economic, and social factors on youth, in collaboration with researchers from Harvard’s Democratic Knowledge Project, Stanford’s Center for Adolescence, and Tufts’ Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development
- 1 interview in an article about voter registration in NYC plummeting due to the pandemic (something we’ve been sounding the alarms about for months!)
- 34 generous donors and 1 visionary family foundation donating $16,856 in response to last month’s fundraising appeal. We cannot thank you enough!
In summary, we grew our cohort by 150% and tripled our summer programming. Your generosity is what made all of this possible—almost. We haven’t yet raised quite enough to cover all of the costs stemming from this growth, yet given the political moment, we felt compelled to meet the demand. We are hoping you can help us bridge the gap by donating in advance of our summer launches next week, to enable us to:
- Fund the remainder of YVote student costs ($250 per student)
- Support a safely socially-distanced Day of Action in the South Bronx on August 8, in which we will partner with community-based organizations and community members in the lowest per capita income Congressional District in the country, which (unsurprisingly) also yields the lowest voter turnout in the city
- Buy YVote masks produced by our inspiring, mission-aligned printers at Reconnect Graphics for all participating teens; they would also be available, of course, to any donors who would like them!
Beyond the numbers are the stories, and our incoming YVoters have some incredible ones! They will draw upon their lived experiences to influence peers across New York City and around the country in participating in voting and being civically engaged. Read more about them in their own words here.
Please consider making a generous donation to support our rising generation of voters and civic leaders today. The future depends on us.
With great gratitude,
June: Protests, Politics, Power, and the Pandemic
Recent months have felt like centuries—perhaps because we’re dealing with issues that have been with us for centuries yet which we have failed to deal with effectively. Our hearts are heavy as we share our First Tuesday Newsletter this month. While we at YVote/Next Generation Politics have been acutely aware of racial injustice and inequity in America, playing out in innumerable disturbing examples over the course of time, the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery (along with so many others) and ensuing events have brought the issues to a long-overdue head. Our hearts ache over and over again. As Joe Biden reminded us in his excellent speech this morning in Philadelphia, “we are in a battle for the soul of this nation.” Something needs to be done about the state of racial injustice in America today. We recognize the responsibility to do so—now.
How to do so is, of course, an open question. We are inspired by myriad ways people are taking action to express the need to disrupt dangerously unjust patterns of policing, inequity, and disproportionality. We’ve gathered a broad array of resources being shared by many organizations and activists and would be happy to direct you to articles and initiatives customized to your needs and interests upon request. We are eager to continue learning from and with allies in the field, and with you, as we forge collective wisdom, commitment, and action.
We want to be clear: there are many ways to protest. We believe that one of the most effective is at the ballot box. We could not agree more with the words of Killer Mike, whose recent speech we encourage you to watch, and who so aptly said “now is the time to plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize.” And by having many, many more people participate—ones who have historically been underrepresented in voting (i.e., young people, poor people, and people of color)—we can make voices heard and make change in powerful ways. The systemic change we need has to be addressed through electing or re-electing people committed to creating this change, and by holding them accountable in office.
This necessitates bringing underrepresented young people into the democratic process. Here’s the good news: despite research that demonstrates deep distrust in government and public institutions among Millennials, many teens want to be involved politically. This is especially true when they are provided with pathways that (1) speak to their passions, (2) are peer-led, (3) support them in giving voice to concerns and questions they have about the country we’re living in, and (4) enable them to take constructive collective action that connects to electoral politics. Our job is to support them in achieving this civic agency.
Despite the constraints of COVID-19, we will be operating a robust, interactive online YVote leadership program this summer. Applications opened last week—and we’ve already received well over 250 from across the five boroughs of NYC for the 50 slots we have available. The applications are heart-warming—and gut-wrenching. PLEASE check out quotes from some of the applications to get a feel for what’s on the minds and in the hearts of young people as they navigate the challenges of our time.
We’d like to accept far more students than we had originally planned to—these are the civic leaders of tomorrow, and this summer can and must play a critical role in shaping their civic identity. Furthermore, this summer will equip them to lead voter engagement and turnout campaigns for hundreds or thousands of teens in their communities and across the country this fall. No one is better-equipped to talk to undervoting youth than their peers, who can answer the question “why vote?” in terms that resonate and mobilize. These are the voters we need to turn on, at a time when there’s a lot conspiring to turn them off.
Many of us are feeling powerless right now, understandably. But dangerously. Now is the time to be bolder, work harder, suspend cynicism, and recognize that we can create change if we work collectively and if we educate, empower, and equip young people to break cycles that have held us all back.
Here is something concrete you can do: sponsor a YVote Fellow or Peer Facilitator (or part of one). To bring in each additional Fellow this summer will cost just $250: of this, $150 covers the Fellow’s stipend (more needed by participating youth now than ever) and $100 covers the Fellow’s portion of the planning and programming provided by our amazing college YVote alumni facilitators. Will you enable one more powerful youth of color to participate in our #2020VisionForChange summer today?
Teens have been hit hard by this pandemic, with so many experiences and opportunities cancelled, including lots of summer programming. We would love to engage as many teens as possible in as many ways as possible, building their activism skills and civic commitment to being changemakers, at and beyond the ballot box. Making a donation to support our general efforts will help us provide constructive outlets for teens this summer.
Here are some highlights from our initiatives over the past month:
- Dozens of our Next Gen Civic Fellows and YVote leaders made powerful presentations at the Take Back the Vote Youth Rally on 5/5, hosted by our NYC Public Advocate and attended by three state senators and two City Council Members who are helping lead the charge to enact Online Voter Registration (OVR). Over 1,100 participated via Facebook Live (archived here), and our youth have been working to activate many more. Unfortunately, with state legislature largely adjourned over the past 2.5 months, OVR is at a standstill. We continue to mobilize to get the legislation we need passed and/or to secure an Executive Order. ACTION: if you live in NY, PLEASE contact your local legislators and demand that they pass S6463/A8473 now.
- Our Civic Fellows presented their cross school Civic Action Projects (CAPs) to a fantastic audience of 90 peers and civic leaders on 5/17. These amazing, thought-provoking presentations are the culmination of projects in which high school students do sustained, complex civic work with peers very different than themselves, grappling with solutions and trade-offs to thorny issues of our time over the course of a semester. That our Fellows maintained their commitment and focus over the course of the pandemic and the pressures of remote learning demonstrates their civic determination and resilience—qualities we sorely need. ACTION: Watch at least one of the Civic Action Project presentations. You will not be disappointed.
- We launched our weekly Social (Distancing) Issues Cinema Club on 5/30. 50 teens voted for The Hate U Give from a selection of five films about race and policing, and afterwards engaged in thoughtful, authentic, searing, and inspiring conversation about how these issues impact them and the changes we need to work towards. ACTION: If you have a civic-minded teen in your life, please share info about the Social (Distancing) Issues Cinema Club and encourage them to join us on Saturday nights.
- Our for-teens, by-teens blog and podcast have continued to thrive! Favorite recent blog entries focus on jury nullification, the crisis facing higher education, real talk about standardized tests in the age of COVID, pros and cons of vote-by-mail, and unemployment, and podcast episodes focus on whether the shelter-in-place orders have been misguided, bridging differences to build knowledge, unleashing the GenZ “youthquake,” and girlhood gone global. ACTION: subscribe to our blog and/or podcast, follow us on Instagram to see each time we publish, and rate us on iTunes!
Looking ahead, in June we will be focusing on:
- Collaborating on a Vote-By-Mail Youth Town Hall on 6/9 from 6-7PM on Facebook Live. ACTION: join us by registering to attend.
- Launching Critical Inquiry and Civil Discourse circles across the country, including in AZ, CA, MN, MO, NY and TX, drawing upon our new Six Week Starter Kit for Civil Discourse. ACTION: know any teens looking to engage in constructive conversations about current events and complex civic issues this summer? Put them in contact with us!
- Preparing for YVote’s Summer of Action in July and August through architecting this year’s weekly sessions and providing robust training in power, purpose, and vision for our fabulous, near-peer YVote facilitators . ACTION: help defray costs by making a contribution.
The coming weeks and months will not be easy for any of us—nor should they be. We conclude with a powerful piece that President Barack Obama published yesterday—one that we strongly encourage everyone to read: How To Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change. Obama makes clear how essential political participation is—particularly by those most marginalized. Obama concluded his piece by noting, “the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.”
President Obama, we could not agree more. To all of you who are working in myriad ways in service of the more just world we need, we thank you. And we thank you for considering supporting us in motivating and mobilizing the next generation of changemakers!
May: We Help Democracy Flower?
This month’s First Tuesday Newsletter is coming to you a bit early—on Monday night—with the hope of (1) getting an important Take Back the Vote youth rally on your radar for tomorrow, and (2) (hopefully) avoiding getting lost in the avalanche of emails you will undoubtedly receive tomorrow for #GivingTuesday. We are not asking for your $$ (though we warmly welcome it), but rather for your support through attention and action.
Last month’s newsletter went out on a dark day for democracy: the Wisconsin Primary Election. What happened in WI made clear, if it wasn’t already, that the right to vote is a fight to vote, and that a number of forces are contributing to disenfranchisement. While that case was particularly egregious, we can expect the next six months (yes, the November 3 election is six months away!) to be packed with assaults on free and fair elections for all sorts of reasons—and from all sorts of directions.
Equipping and exciting young people to be on the front lines in motivating and mobilizing their peers is vitally important. Here’s what we are doing, and how we hope you can help:
- Join us tomorrow, May 5 at 5PM EDT on Facebook Live for a Take Back the Vote Youth Rally in NYC. YVote and Next Generation Politics (NGP) Civic Fellows will both be presenting, and we’re fortunate to be partnering with the NYC Public Advocate, three State Senators, two City Council Members, and more. Flyer is attached; more details about the event here!
- Join us on Sunday, May 17 from 2-4PM EDT via Zoom for Civic Action Project presentations by our NGP Civic Fellows. This marks the culminating activity for students drawn from across 15 high schools in NY to delve deeply into core civic issues (criminal justice, freedom of expression, immigration, and voting rights). Students create impactful presentations on topics that blend policy and action in order to influence leaders in the field as well as our partner organizations. Flyer is attached; please RSVP in advance.
- Let any teens in your life know about the array of opportunities we’re creating to support them in being civically engaged during this challenging time (when life serves up remote learning, make #RemoteLearningAid)!
- A Social (Distancing) Issues Cinema Club
- Weekly Think Tank Events from across the ideological spectrum (Note: this is a great resource for viewers of ALL ages!)
- A Six Week Starter Kit for Civil Discourse for teens to support existing and emerging groups across the country in conducting online civic engagement groups throughout the summer! (Any interested teens can contact [email protected] to get connected—we launch in a few weeks!)
- YVote Summer of Action (as of now, only offered in NY)
- Subscribe to our twice-weekly blog and weekly podcast The Round Table (don’t miss last week’s amazing interview with Mayor Yvonne Spicer of Framingham, MA. Also known as the People’s Mayor, Spicer inspires our teen podcasters and listeners about the value of creating a more expansive and inclusive vision of leadership by example)
This is a challenging and difficult time for all of us in different ways. One thing I think we can all agree on, as noted in Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s recent civic landscape analysis, is that we need to support young people in being:
- well-informed (i.e., developing a nuanced understanding of our history, government, civil society institutions and current affairs);
- productively engaged in working for the common good (i.e., being active in their communities and able to work with all kinds of people without fear or contempt to craft solutions to their common problems); and
- hopeful about our democracy.
We’re proud to partner with you in making it so.
In Civic Solidarity,
April: Civic Showers
There’s nothing like a pandemic to provide perspective. It’s hard to fathom how much the world and our daily lives have changed since our last First Tuesday newsletter. Our work—the work you have been instrumental in supporting—has never been more important. Physical health and economic health are paramount; civic and democratic health follow close behind. We are all living through one of the world’s most challenging and rapidly-evolving history lessons and none of us know how things will play out. What we do know is that leadership matters and citizenship matters, and that we must foster civic preparedness and resilience now and for the future.
If you are receiving this newsletter, it’s because we cherish and value you. We’ve been working long hours to keep up with coronavirus-related developments and support our young people in making sense of the moment: transitioning our programming to digital platforms; supporting youth in converting their campaigns and civic action projects for the current context; keeping our blog (next up: A Path Towards Global Pandemic Response Readiness) and podcast going strong (check out recent episodes Making Sense After Super Tuesday, Vote By Design, All About India—and COVID-19, and #JudiciarySoWhite: Towards a Fair and Just Judicial System); facilitating daily dialogue about civic and political issues with our teen bloggers through our Slack channel; partnering with other organizations to support youth needs more broadly during this time; and providing lots of individual and collective outreach and support. While we haven’t had as much time to reach out to each of you individually as we’d like to (yet!), please know you are on our minds and in our hearts and we are wishing the very best for you and your loved ones. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to let us know if there is ANYTHING we can do to support you on any front!
So, about March:
- March played out very differently than we anticipated, but we WERE able to participate in much of what we’d planned in some form or another. Highlights included:
- Partnership on WNET-Channel 13’s Beyond the Vote youth collective summit, at which a FANTASTIC video starring five of our YVoters premiered
- Facilitating a voter workshop for 40 Coro Participatory Budgeting Youth Fellows
- Hosting a Civic Forum focused on the NYS Budget and propelling Civic Action Projects forward
- We’ve temporarily switched our Pizza and Politics Forums and Civic Forums to online engagements (if anyone can figure out how to serve pizza via Zoom, that would truly be the killer app!), and our youth have adapted well. Their civic appetite remains enormous and perhaps even greater than ever. We’re heartened by our young people’s willingness to spend time with us on evenings and weekends after long exhausting days doing remote learning. The creativity they’re exhibiting in the face of so many disappointments, concerns and constraints is truly astounding and energizing.
- The pandemic has created opportunities for our initiatives, and we’ve been trying to capitalize on them to their fullest. For ex, students can’t visit or in many cases even contact colleges, yet spring is a critically important time for decision-making. In response, we put together a powerful online conversation on “Selecting and Strategizing About College” hosted by six of our stellar YVote recent alums now in college. You can check out video from this informative discussion here
- We recently launched a project called Civic Resilience in the Age of Polarization and Acceleration: Understanding and Empowering Youth Across Differences and Divides, examining the impacts of current political, economic, and social factors on youth. This project is executed in collaboration with researchers from Harvard’s Democratic Knowledge Project, Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life (inclusive of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development and CIRCLE), and Stanford’s Center for Adolescence.
- This Friday, April 10 from 2-6PM, we’re collaborating with Phace The Youth on a Phacing the 2020 Vote Digital Summit, the main goals of which are to register voters, engage Gen-Z in the political process, and ensure that social distancing does not result in political distancing. If you’d like to participate, let us know and we can provide further details.
- Also on April 10, from 6-7PM, we are co-sponsoring a “Democracy during COVID-19 Outbreak” panel in collaboration with the NYC Public Advocate’s Office, Common Cause, the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, and the New York Immigration Coalition. We’ll be addressing democracy concerns that have arisen during this outbreak, equitable responses, and advocacy happening around pushing our democracy forward during a big election year. If you’re interested in participating, email us and we’ll sign you up.
- We are participating in Red and Blue Works’ Civic Spring Project working group over the next six weeks—stay tuned for more next month.
- The citywide Youth Civics Fair we’ve been serving on the Planning Committee for has been postponed to May 30 from 1-4PM and will now be virtual, meaning it will be available to youth from around the country—again, stay tuned for more next month.
What can you do to support our work? We’re so glad you asked!
- Sign our petition demanding Online Voter Registration in New York: With over 90,000 residents in NYC alone turning 18 this year, over half a million 18-29 year olds not registered, and no good way to do in-person registration this spring, it’s mission-critical. We’re doing a bunch of other state-level advocacy, so don’t hesitate to ask if you’d like to be involved
- Sign the petition to preserve and expand Summer Youth Employment (SYEP) in NYC: The Mayor and Dept of Youth and Community Development have just announced plans to cancel this invaluable program, providing 75,000 14-24 year olds with employment this summer—and more directly, we were slated to design the first civic track for this program. We are in high gear pushing for its preservation.
- Join us on Wed, April 22 from 6-7PM for “Mobilizing the Next Generation,” a live webcast in collaboration with Rep 19, during which four of our podcasters will be in conversation with Mayor Yvonne Spicer about building pipelines for young women into political office and political engagement (Flyer attached; sign up here)
- Save the Date! On Sunday, May 17 from 2-4PM, join our Civic Fellows on Zoom for their Civic Action Project presentations. More information to follow in next month’s First Tuesday newsletter.
- If you’d like to observe any of our meetings via Zoom (it’s not Zoombombing if you’re invited…), let us know and we’d be happy to share the link!
- If you are able to contribute to supporting and strengthening this work, please consider donating here
We’ve been buoyed up by the coalitions we’re part of that are doing powerful work, locally and nationally, to support young people—especially our most vulnerable—during this crisis and beyond: the Let New York Vote Youth Working Group, the Ready to Vote Coalition (check out #DigitalDemocracy) , the Democracy Ready coalition, the Activism and Civic Engagement (ACE) network, the NYC Civics Fair Planning Committee (now working to create a COVID19 Youth Resource Toolkit and related mental health supports, the GGE-led New York Youth Service Providers coalition, and more. As many have noted, social distancing is a misnomer—we must physically distance while maintaining and increasing social connection and solidarity. We’re so grateful to all of you for being part of the wonderful web holding us all afloat.
Great things have come in the aftermath of our worst moments. And they will again if we join forces to make it so. Many thanks and warmest wishes as we navigate through and commit to creating a more civic and sustainable future on the other side!
March: putting the super in your Tuesday
Hope you’re having Super Tuesdays, whether or not you’re in a voting state! Things may become a lot clearer within the Democratic Party race as the day and night progress–or they may not…
One thing that IS clear is that youth turnout is going to be critical. There are signs of promise based on exit polls–youth turnout in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina primaries were about double what they were in the most directly comparative years (when only one party voted) and vote share has increased as well (as you may have heard, GenZ was 4% of the electorate in 2016 and will be 10% in 2020.) That said, the numbers are still very low. Increasing turnout and engagement–as we are working hard to do– is important not just for the current election cycle but for the broader democratic participation and generational enfranchisement of young adults that we sorely need. Young people are the largest, most diverse, most progressive demographic we have and if we can successfully translate their passion for issues into votes at the ballot box, we can transform the political landscape in profoundly positive ways.
- We’ve pulled together an exciting partnership with researchers from Harvard’s Democratic Knowledge Project, Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life (inclusive of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development and CIRCLE), and Stanford’s Center for Adolescence called “Civic Resilience in the Age of Polarization and Acceleration: Understanding and Empowering Youth Across Differences and Divides.” We’ll be excited to share what emerges!
- YVote partnered with the Girl Scouts to design and facilitate a five-week Cadette Advocacy track for 35 talented middle school girls in the first GIRL–Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader™–Guide to Taking Action Seminar series. No badges were awarded and no cookies sold or eaten, but we’re pretty dazzled by the Girl Scout gospel. Check out snippets of our programming here
- YVoters did a fantastic job facilitating a workshop for 100+ activist teens as part of a Teen Black Lives Matter conference at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Highlights here
- We initiated the next phase of our Next Generation Politics Civic Forums, launching six cross-school Civic Action Projects (CAPs) for 40 Civic Fellows from across 15 high schools. Each project is partnered with an outstanding civic organization collaborating on work that will target both policy and practice. We are so grateful to our partners from Generation Vote/Brennan Center for Justice, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Border/Lines, the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution @ John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Columbia University’s Center for Justice.
- We facilitated seven whirlwind interactive workshops at the Voices of Humanity symposium–and got the nicest notes from participating students in response.
- We conducted two YVote Pizza and Politics Forums, meeting with and forging important partnerships with reps from the NYC Department of Education’s Civics for All initiative to spread civic learning and with the NYC Public Advocate’s Office to help #RepTheVote and popularize pre-registration across the five boroughs.
- We attended a house party with the indefatigable Stacy Abrams of Fair Fight, resonating so deeply with her very moving remarks about the power of the vote, the forces that are working to suppress voters of color and young people, and what we can do about it. We are proud to do work in the service of this shared mission.
- We continued to publish great blogs and podcasts weekly (check out our favorite of the month, “Debaters Debating Debates” to hear how our crackerjack high school debaters would make improvements in the Presidential version.)
March promises to be equally event-full:
- This week, many YVoters are running voter registration drives and other civic activities at their school as part of the NYC Dept. of Education’s second annual Civics Week.
- On March 5, we’ll be part of WNET’s Channel 13’s Beyond the Vote youth civic engagement conference at The New School. We are so proud that four YVoters were selected to star in a promo video about what civic learning means to them! This video will premiere at the conference.
- On March 7, YVote will be facilitating a voter engagement workshop for 40 Coro Participatory Budgeting Youth Fellows representing each participating city council district.
- On March 8, our Next Generation Politics Civic Fellows will take their CAPs to the next level, analyzing the New York State budget (!), crafting financial projections, doing stakeholder identification, and engaging in power mapping.
- On March 11, a new leadership cohort of YVote launches!
- On March 12-13, several of our Next Gen Politics and YVote youth will be on the Opening Panel for an exciting convening, “Reimagining Civic Learning: Charting a Course Together“ aiming to build cross-partisan support to develop a field of civic learning based on this powerful civic learning white paper.
- On March 14, a number of YVoters will be participating in the WOW Teen Summit: Creating Social Change at the Apollo Theater in Harlem
- On March 20, we’re facilitating a session and a case study about our work at the annual YouthBridge Leaders to Leaders Youth Summit
Want more details about any of this? Just ask, or better yet, come visit! If you are based in NYC, here are two dates to mark on your calendar:
- On Sun, March 15 at 5:30 PM, join us for a wonderful chamber music concert honoring women composers, with proceeds going to Next Generation Politics. (Invitation attached; RSVP required)
- On Sun, April 26 from 12-12PM, join our Civic Fellows for presentations of their Civic Action Projects (CAPs) alongside civic movers and shakers from across the city. Write back for details.
Thank you for your ongoing support. We truly could not be doing this work without you!
February: Will Young Voters See Their Shadows?
Happy first Tuesday! Guess what’s nine months away? Yes, we are all pregnant with anticipation and yes, that is literally a mom joke…
This morning started differently from what I think we all imagined given the unfortunate news from Iowa. Developments like this do NOT promote young people’s faith in the security and stability of elections and voting, making our efforts to motivate and mobilize young voters more challenging and important than ever. And we’re on it!
On the upside, one of our wonderful alumni Lead Civic Fellows, Lila Podgainy, is now a freshman at Grinnell, actively involved in the caucuses and in turning young people out for them. As you may have heard (from the likes of Teen Vogue), teen voters could swing the outcomes in Iowa–and beyond. Lila reports that her and her peers’ experience on the ground in the caucuses was very positive (she was briefly in the background of some of the CNN coverage) and she will share her firsthand insights prepping young people to caucus in our Next Gen Politics blog next week.
Speaking of our blog, if you haven’t checked out our teens’ great pieces recently, here’s a reminder to do so if you want to keep your finger on the pulse of how young people are making sense of the political moment. We’re so proud of our bloggers and the wide range of things they’re covering, from Inica Kotasthane’s retrospective of the 2010s (by a 16 year old…) to Steven Dames’ new vision for foreign policy (one of several deep international pieces this month) to Molly May’s in-depth explanation of the 2020 Election Process to Alexandra Madaras’ analysis of why The Hunger Games is more relevant than ever to our times and much more in the last month alone. And don’t miss Alex’s moving cri de coeur Not Voting is Not Caring and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves–if you’re as rapt as our readers are, you can delve deeper through listening to our related podcast interview of Alexandra. And while you’re there, check out our other podcasts from The Round Table this month–three great additions to our ongoing Polarization and Cross-Partisanship series
Beyond election fever, here are some of our highlights from January:
- We started the month with a YVote Alumni Panel: Academics and Activism in the First Semester at our Pizza and Politics Forum to help prepare our high schoolers for college transitions. Our YVoters learned so much hearing recent alums talk about navigating Predominantly White Institutions, capitalizing on extracurricular opportunities, and, our favorite, what parts of YVote have helped you the most in college and why (we couldn’t be more heartened by what they shared)
- Our Next Gen Politics Fellows engaged in a provocative Civic Forum on Immigration, grappling with different approaches to immigration policy, with fantastic framing by Felipe De La Hoz (you can get a taste here.) These issues are very personal and high stakes for our Fellows, as you can tell from the way they navigate divergent perspectives in their deliberations (sample here.) We opened the session with a powerful workshop on media literacy workshop with Howard Schneider of the Center for News Literacy that should be MANDATORY viewing for all students (and all humans.) Dip into the first part here
- We were honored to be selected as part of the Rethinking Democracy series of the How Do We Fix It? podcast supported by the Solutions Journalism Network. Seven of our Civic Fellows spoke eloquently about what they are learning through our Civic Forums and why ALL students would benefit from them. Check out a (riveting) 10 min segment here
- One of YVote’s core strategies is building capacity in other youth groups and we had multiple opportunities to do so this month, partnering with both the Bronx Collaborative Action Team (BxCAT) of Phipps Neighborhood House and WNET’s Youth Collective for a pre-registration workshop and capacity building (ICYMI, as of Jan 1, all 16 and 17 years in NY are eligible to pre-register and we’re playing a big role in it!) We’re thrilled that the Public Advocate’s office wants YVote to be their primary partner in conducting citywide pre-registration. Our YVoters also helped inspire WNET youth as they develop a citywide Youth Civic Engagement in March by sharing the process of creating Activation Stations for our summer Youth Town Hall with Elected Officials.
- YVote was honored to facilitate an MLK-inspired voting workshop for Global Kids and to join the Raise the Age Coalition in rallying for criminal justice reform in Albany, both of which you can catch highlights of here
Believe it or not, there’s more but we’ll save it for our Feb retrospective. Until then, please follow us on Instagram at nextgenpol and yvoteny. And please consider joining us for a chamber music concert on Sat, March 15 at 5:30pm at the home of Advisory Board Member Terry Born–invitation attached and proceeds will go to Next Generation Politics/YVote. And of course, we never turn down any donations to fuel our work here.
MANY thanks for your support in so many different ways, without which none of this would be possible. Let’s use these next nine months to gestate a healthy, strong democracy…
November: Today, and a year from today
Happy Election Day! Thanks to your support, our youth leaders are getting creative in helping get out the (youth) vote–while shining a light on ways some communities have been left out of the process. This is sooooo important given increasing recognition that mobilizing young voters may be THE key to next year’s election (nearly 40% of the electorate in 2020 will be millennial or Generation Z voters.)
Today, a dozen of our youth leaders are facilitating a citywide Get Out the (Youth) Vote workshop for peers from across the city. They are opening the workshop by having each participant “register” and experience some of the historic (and all too current) barriers, from literacy tests (which I’m not sure *I* would pass) to exact match ID requirements to being purged from the voter rolls to polling site challenges and more. This framing helps them recognize the right to vote has long been a fight to vote–and a fight worth their fighting.
Some of our other youth will spend the day engaged in text to vote campaigns through our partnership with Motivote. And yet others will be prepping for a big, first-of-its-kind Youth Voting Rights and Engagement Summit in Albany. In all these endeavors, they will be applying the organizing and campaign building skills they’re developing in our biweekly Pizza and Politics Forums.
You might think voting isn’t a problem in NY. And then you might be surprised to learn that youth voter turnout in New York is the second lowest in the nation. While youth voter engagement increased dramatically between the 2014 and 2018 midterms, the needle moved less in NY, where youth voter turnout was just 16.4% (lower for the 18-19 year olds we focus on), compared to an (already low) national youth average of 28.2%.
Voting isn’t just about electoral college votes (important though they are); voting is a gateway to civic belonging and civic engagement. We MUST create meaningful on-ramps like voting AND other participatory vehicles for youth if they are to grow into the civic leaders we need them to be.
That brings us to the other half of our work through Next Generation Politics. Our 75 New York-based Civic Fellows recently participated in a vibrant full-day Civic Orientation and a powerful Civic Forum on Voting Today in the USA in which they deliberated on seven reforms they think could make the biggest difference increasing youth voter engagement (check out how Fellows rank choice voted on them here). On Nov 17, they will engage in a provocative Civic Forum on Freedom of Expression (yes, they’ll be grappling with Mark Zuckerberg’s stance…)—let us know if you’d like to join us! Meanwhile over 40 youth from across the country contribute to our thrice-weekly blog and a dozen others are producing our weekly ‘by teens, for teens’ podcast The Round Table, available on all major podcast platforms, modeling civil dialogue across various divides–socioeconomic, racial, political, and regional–while challenging norms and representing all kinds of diversity, especially of perspective and ideas.
We are seriously psyched about all these exciting work underway. And seriously scared by the threats to democracy we are up against. Come January 1, some truly historic reforms–100 years in the making–will kick in in New York, which we are proud to have advocated for. These reforms have meaningful potential—but only if they truly work to expand voter engagement, particularly in our most disenfranchised communities and demographics. This is the vital work we will be doing over the 365 days that lie ahead. Please help honor this day, and the pivotal role of young voters and young citizens, by donating to our #2020VisionForChange Campaign here.
Thank you, so much, for your ongoing support and allyship!
October: New Month, New Year, More Civic Impact
I’m proud to share some exciting news: YVote has merged with Next Generation Politics! You can read about our merger here. As many of you know, I co-founded and have been directing both initiatives for the past two years, and am delighted to align my worlds more than I’ve previously been able to do. Our new combined entity will enable us to amplify our impact, and strengthen our 2020 Vision for Change campaign.
Our biweekly YVote Pizza and Politics Forums launched two weeks ago, and our Next Gen Politics Civic Forums launch this Sunday with a high-octane full-day orientation for our 50 incoming Civic Fellows from across 15 schools, let by 12 outstanding Lead Fellows (who have ascended from the ranks to be dialogue leaders this year.)
We are fired up and (almost) ready to go, but there are a few things we are seeking and would love your support in securing–please email me if you have suggestions for either of the first two:
1) a Constitution and teen-loving lawyer or layperson interested and available to facilitate a cool Constitution-focused activity for our thoughtful Fellows late Sunday morning, Oct 6 as part of Orientation Day. The activity has been designed–we are seeking someone with expertise and passion about the Constitution to give brief framing remarks, circulate and provide feedback on the group work, and answer questions that might come up.
2) an affordable and excellent videographer and/or pro bono photographer we could engage to capture magical moments at our Forums
3) follow us on instagram at @yvoteny and at @nextgenpol, where we share the ‘by teens, for teens’ blog our teens produce three times a week. You can also sign up to receive our blog, or our soon to be released ‘by teens, for teens’ podcast, here3) donations in support of our 2020 Vision for Change campaign. Do you have friends or family who are tearing their hair out about the state of our country and our world? We’d love to counterbalance their despair with a shot of optimism afforded through interaction with our amazing young civic leaders.
We are proud to have worked closely with over 350 teens across programs over the past two years, another 200+ through shorter term programs, and many many more through social media and peer-to-peer contact. Today marks 13 months until the 2020 election and we’ve got our work cut out for us. We look forward to building upon this base as we blaze a new trail together, and appreciate your support enormously!
July: Declarations of the Future
Happy 4th! As we celebrate the 243rd anniversary of our Declaration of Independence, we thank you for your instrumental support in enabling YVote to cultivate a rising generation of change-makers committed to independence of thought entwined with interdependence of outcomes.
America is full of contradictions and YVote is committed to helping youth navigate them constructively. Listen to the voices of incoming YVoters like Maria Narvaez, a rising senior at the ISLA High School in the Bronx: “I’m part of YVote because it enables me and other youth to have a voice and talk about what we believe in an open welcoming space which not only takes accountability of what we have to say but encourages the youth to vote and see how that vote can impact society as a whole. YVote helps us grow and develop our understanding of voting and how it does not finish when you leave the voting box.”
It sure doesn’t. The work of democracy building is daily and we are equipping youth for civic activism in all facets of their lives. Check out the voices of more of our incoming YVoters here.
And check out Lessons in Activism: Graduating Student Leaders Contemplate Next Moves which aired on WNYC last week featuring Katrice Ramirez, one of our founding YVoters and peer facilitators.
Katrice says, “I’m deeply dissatisfied with the way our country is running these days. We live in a time that’s a little bit like a dystopia. We hope things get better, but they kind of get worse. At YVote, we understand this is not normal and it’s not ok. And we’re going to do something about it. This is the type of activism that happens right before something amazing happens.”
At YVote, our young people are committed to helping our country live up to the core values enshrined, and as yet unrealized, in the Declaration. We are working to ensure that civic deeds match our civic creed, bridging the gap between rhetoric and reality to make freedom and equality lived realities rather than lofty ideals.
YVote has just turned two. On this day of honoring founders, we honor YOU: our founding donors. Please share what we’re doing with others and encourage them to make a gift to YVote in honor of interdependence today.
Many thanks for all you do,
June: Today–and the next 497 days…
Today is Primary Day in New York City. A number of our YVoters have turned 18 since Nov 6 and will be voting for the first time; others will get another opportunity to flex their voting muscles (research shows that the more often young people vote in the earliest years of being eligible, the more likely they are to be voters for life.) Judging from my polling place at 9AM this morning, they may constitute a significant percentage of voter turnout…
As you know, YVote’s goal is to get young people to the polls in every election AND to help them engage beyond the ballot box in issues that matter most to them. Affordability, racial and gender equity, school equity and integration, immigration, gun violence prevention are among the top issues identified by the 50 newly selected YVoters who will join us this summer. YVote is unique in our issue-based approach to sparking teen commitment to voting, and the degree to which we provide an early motivational runway that develops civic identity and civic agency. This ensures that teens don’t just register, they turn out AND get their friends and extended communities to turn out AND cast informed votes AND stay connected to their elected officials AND take ongoing action around the most important civic issues of our time.
This summer’s cohort of 50 are an extraordinary mix of teens, drawn from more than 20 high schools across all five boroughs and facilitated by 10 of our stellar YVoters from last summer and the school year (pictured below.) This summer, they will develop the skills and knowledge to be ambassadors for voting and civic engagement in their schools and communities. They will analyze data to hone in on neighborhoods where youth voter turnout is lowest and can make the greatest difference, in New York and across the country, and will develop action campaigns to engage those who are the most disconnected. They will craft toolkits for teens across the country to use in peer-to-peer campaigns. They will strengthen their civic agency and their commitment to being at the vanguard of changing the political landscape.
Data demonstrates that Gen Z (young people between the ages 18 and 23), Millennials, and Gen X outvoted older generations in 2018 midterms for the first time. Gen Z will be even MORE important in 2020, as one in ten eligible voters will be members of Generation Z–up from being just 4% of the electorate in 2016. This will occur as Millennials and all other older generations account for a smaller share of eligible voters than they did in 2016. These post-Millennials are on track to be more racially and ethnically diverse than their predecessors. By targeting Gen Z, we have a huge opportunity to change the face of the electorate AND the degree to which the electorate votes for progressive change.
None of this can happen without concerted, creative, collective effort, which YVote is poised to lead thanks to your support. Last Saturday marked the 500 day countdown to the 2020 election, which stands to be the most important election of our lives. Each day between now and then matters. Will you please forward this email to friends, family, friendly strangers, and ask them to consider making a donation to YVote today to ensure that we can make a difference each day?
Many, many thanks for your support and for all you do,
May: To Get Teens to the Ballot Box in Six Months, Support YVote Today
Today marks six months until the 2019 election and 18 months until the 2020 presidential election. The stakes couldn’t be higher. And the importance of the youth vote couldn’t be stronger. Research indicates that the historically-high youth voter turnout had a significant impact on the 2018 election. This is encouraging, and we have an opportunity to change the political ecology by motivating and mobilizing young voters to get to the ballot box in unprecedented numbers AND to make informed choices once there.
Our 18 in ’18 campaign to get one million 18 year old voters to the polls was successful, marking over a 50% increase from 18 year old’s turnout in 2014. And we have even bigger aspirations for 2020. Last month, in collaboration with the Middle College National Consortium, we convened our first national Youth Voice, Youth Vote conference for 150 teen leaders from Chicago, IL; Los Angeles CA; Greenville, SC; Buffalo, NY; Flint, MI; Houston, TX; Tarboro, NC; New York, NY and more, bringing them together for skill-building and movement-building. We couldn’t have been more more impressed with these civically-charged teens, who are now turbo-fueled to return to their school communities and further galvanize their peers. Please check out highlights from the conference here, here, and here.
We’ve just opened the recruitment season for our next cohort of YVote youth in NYC, and welcome you to share this flyer with any rising high school sophomores, juniors, or seniors. Looking ahead, we’ll be hosting our second annual Youth Town Hall in NYC with elected officials and civic movers and shakers (that’s you!) this summer, tentatively on Tues, August 6 from 5-7:30 PM, building on the success of last year’s stellar Town Hall. We anticipate hosting Civic Forums in other parts of the country over the year(s) ahead so stay tuned.
We are very galvanized to continue doing this work and can’t do so without your support. Thank you so much for your contributions to date, and we hope you’ll consider making a donation here to support our vital summer programming in laying groundwork for the youth surge in 2020.
March: The Triumph of Tuesdays–and upcoming invitations
Happy Tuesday! Tuesday is one of my favorite days of the week because 1) it’s not Monday 2) it’s the day we VOTE 3) it’s the day we host YVote Pizza and Politics Forums for amazing teen activists.
A friend recently asked me if we were still doing YVote after the 2018 election. I was surprised because the work of strengthening democracy –and ensuring that young people are motivated and equipped to participate fully and thoughtfully in it–transcends any specific election, but it made me realize that we are overdue to update you, our beloved YVote supporters and champions, to share what we’ve been doing and what we’re cooking up. You can read a brief summary here.
We were heartened by the historic increase in youth turnout in 2018, but much more work lies ahead to ensure that we truly transform the electorate in the ways that youth demographics could make possible. You’ve hopefully heard about the recent voting reform measures in NY which will, among many progressive changes, allow for pre-registration of 16 and 17 year olds–a huge opportunity IF we also capitalize on the opportunity to help teens understand “why vote.” You’ve also hopefully heard about the House of Representatives passing the incredible HR I–the For the People Act–a bill that would make sweeping reforms to improve the function of elections, reduce the influence of big money, and increase governmental accountability, inclusive of provisions to address barriers to students registering and casting ballots. YVote was part of a coalition of 30 organizations pushing for this Bill and thanking committee leadership for making it happen. Of course there is fierce opposition to making it happen in the Senate. While it is unlikely to be approved in the proximate future, it is a sign of the tides turning, and we will continue to advocate and organize.
Looking ahead, we’d like to invite you to a few exciting upcoming events:
1) This Sat, Mar 16 from 3-6PM is the NYC Purpose Power Town Hall at Civic Hall in Chelsea,for which YVote is a community partner. Tickets are available here (and as a YVote supporter, you get 50% off with code PurposePartner.) This Town Hall will focus on grassroots community action as a pathway for sustainable change. The goal is to provide a vehicle through which people can take responsibility for strengthening the civic fabric of our communities, creating a new kind of politics born from shared values and vision for the future. Please consider joining us!
2) From April 11-13, 2019 YVote and The Middle College National Consortium (MCNC)–a consortia of 40+ schools that promote and support opportunities for underserved youth to attend college for free while still in high school– are hosting a national “Youth Voice: Youth Vote” conference for 150+ students from Chicago, IL; Los Angeles CA; Greenville, SC; Buffalo, NY; Flint, MI; Houston, TX; Tarboro, NC; and of course NYC. We’d love for you to participate in any part of it; more information is available here. On Fri night, April 12, we’re taking all of the students to see Heidi Shreck’s powerful What the Constitution Means To Me–to be followed by a conversation with Heidi–and would warmly welcome you to buy a ticket and join us.
3) On Tues, May 28 (told you we love Tuesdays!) from 5-7:30PM, we are planning our next Youth Town Hall with Elected Officials and Civic Movers and Shakers and we’d love you to be part of it. Mark your calendars and stay tuned for further details.
With thanks and in solidarity,
February: V is for…
Voting! OK, this might not be the primary V you’re thinking about today, but it’s the primary V our YVote youth think about EVERY day as they come up with creative ways to boost voting in their schools and communities.
But yes, today V also makes us think of Valentine’s Day, and the license it provides to express our emotions. Which in this case is gratitude to YOU for the instrumental support you provide for YVote. Thank you thank you thank you!
Your investment in us is enabling great things to happen. On Tues night, we hosted our monthly Pizza and Politics Forum, conducting a workshop on the 5 As of Activism (Awareness, Analysis, Advocacy, Agitation, and Accountability.) Our YVoters made initial Passion Pitches (which will be uploaded to our Instagram throughout the week–be sure you’re following us!) and worked on honing their Calls to Action. Afterwards, we all went to see Gloria: A Life courtesy of the Hope-Aholics program, learning about the history of the iconic Gloria Steinem and her feminist peers raising their voice for equality and championing those of others. YVoters didn’t know much of this history, and felt empowered and emboldened learning it. They stole the show during the Talk Circle at the end of the play, demonstrating how they are carrying the torch forward and inspiring hope for future elections.
What lies ahead?
- co-hosting a Vigil with ACTION for Parkland shooting victims who died one year ago today–and registering voters committed to pressuring elected officials for change (pop by at 6PM if you’re in NYC)
- advancing our affinity group work around gender justice, immigration, and school equity, connecting the issues to the impact youth can make on electoral politics
- the national “Youth Voice, Youth Vote” student conference we’ve cooked up with the Middle College National Consortium, with 175 youth from around the country converging in NYC in mid April, marking the city’s first ever Civic Engagement Week
- prepping for our second annual Youth Town Hall in May
- a summer equipping youth to be peer voting leaders AND to facilitate workshops for younger youth to build an early motivational runway
THANK YOU for enabling us to get this far in our journey, and for helping propel our work to the next level. V is also for Victory–and that’s exactly what we intend to achieve at the ballot box.
With powerful love,