First Tuesday Newsletters

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:

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. 

With gratitude,

Sanda

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:

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.
  • 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 PMYouth 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, 6PMYVote 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,

Sanda 

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 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:

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:

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,

Team YVote

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:

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.

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,

Team YVote

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

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, 

Team YVote


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:

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!

Team YVote


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:

  1. 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!
  1. 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.
  1. 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)!

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,

Team YVote


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:
  • 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 

Looking ahead:

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! 

Team YVote

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.

So what have Next Generation Politics and YVote been up to? A lot! Thank goodness February was 29 days this month because we needed them…

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!

Team YVote


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:

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…

Team YVote


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!

Team YVote

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!

Team YVote


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,

Team YVote


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…

June 25 polling 9AM.JPG

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,

Team YVote

YVote 18 in '18 photo.jpg


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 herehere, 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.


Onwards!

Team YVote

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,

Team YVote


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

And more!

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,

Team YVote