2019 Grants Challenge

LA Youth Civics in Action

Idea by

Nonpartisan researches controversial issues, trains teachers and provides tools for civic education.This initiative combines election research and resources with ActionCivicsCA's competitive public speaking and community action projects. Tying student speeches and community projects to 2020 election issues, we'll inspire Angelenos to participate in neighborhood councils and vote. This will have lasting, transformative impacts on students, their families, schools, and communities.


Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

Action Civics CA-Mikva Challenge

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact. started when a friend of the founder had to make an important life decision: whether to use medical marijuana to help manage his AIDS symptoms. After the founder had the issue thoroughly researched and the results were published online, he discovered thousands of people had visited the site. He formed and today we cover the pros, cons, and background of more than 80 issues. engages 2 million readers a month with its pro/con research, headline articles, teacher training, student seminars and live debate events all over LA County. By measuring opinions before and after exposure to pro/con research online and at live debates, readers and audience members changed the intensity of their opinions by as much as 40%. also produces live events in the Los Angeles area. On 2/1/19 we invited students interested in debate from some of LA’s lowest income schools, plus a group of foster youth, to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. In this setting of a presidential library, they received what teachers and counselors told us was “an unforgettable and inspiring learning experience.” The day began with a youth debate on felon voting, followed by a screening of “The Great Debaters,” a movie about how students at a historically black college came to defeat the debate team from an Ivy League school in the first interracial debate in the country. After lunch, the screenwriter and actors held a panel discussion. Students learned about felon voting and black history, participated in critical thinking exercises, discussed/debated the issue, spoke with the prominent experts and influencers in debate, and left the experience inspired and empowered.

After an Action Civics CA project, students formed a school club called SERÁ (Students Educate to Resist and Advocate), gathered during and after school to organize immigration rights workshops open to their community and reach out to other students who may be interested in engaging with the project. They organized a school-wide assembly featuring staff from Karen Bass’s office.This gave students an opportunity to engage with political representatives to communicate the pressing immigration needs they witnessed every day.

Which of the CONNECT metrics will your submission impact?​​

Participation in neighborhood councils

Rates of volunteerism

Voting rates

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?​

Central LA

East LA

San Fernando Valley

South LA


County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles


How will your project make LA the best place to CONNECT?

LA Youth Civics in Action is a joint initiative between and Action Civics CA (Mikva Challenge). Starting in September, 2019, the initiative will be carried out online, in under-resourced middle and high schools, and in the community--culminating in 2 city-wide events before the end of the school year in June, 2020.

This initiative is designed to help students learn about issues in the 2020 presidential election, then take local action on them. This effort is driven by their research, preparation and delivery of a public speech, and later, a group action project.

The initiative includes:

Researching and deliberating the pros, cons, and background of an issue in the 2020 presidential election

Building critical thinking skills and social emotional learning (SEL)

Exploring personal and community perspectives on national issues

Preparing and delivering a speech in public

Peer to peer learning and collaborating around an issue-based project, and

Taking action in their community and school

This program will strengthen LA 2050’s CONNECT metrics by increasing the number of Los Angeles youth who regularly volunteer, register to vote, and take direct action, from circulating petitions to organizing their peers to calling for government response to their community’s needs.

The staff of professional researchers will conduct research on the candidates’ position on dozens of key issues, and provide pros, cons, and related research on these issues.

Students will investigate the local angle to the issue of their choice, and use it in the following:

2020 Election Project Soapbox Speech: During the Fall 2019 semester, students will use to research and deliver a 2-minute speech about a 2020 election issue. Students will then write and deliver their Project Soapbox speeches at a city-wide event in January 2020.

2020 Election Action Project: During the spring semester, students will organize into groups to choose one of the Soapbox speech issues for an Action Project in which they will:

examine their community, starting with mapping neighborhood assets,

research the issue locally, using root cause analysis and surveys of family, friends, and neighbors, set a goal for solving the issue and analyzing who has the power to make it happen, develop civic action strategies, and take concrete action to affect policy on this issue.

Students will present the outcomes of their Action Projects at the city-wide Action Civics Showcase. At this event, students network with other civically-engaged peers and with community leaders from across Los Angeles, with the end goal to effect meaningful change in their schools, neighborhoods, and the city.

Though student demographics vary at each partner school, the LA Youth Civics in Action initiative prioritizes high-needs students within under-resourced LAUSD schools. Action Civics’ student population is on average 73% Latino/Hispanic, 12% African-American, 7% Asian, and 78% low income.

In what stage of innovation is this project?​

Expand existing program (expanding and continuing ongoing successful projects)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

Success for the LA Youth Civics in Action program will be determined by the following measurable outcomes:

Expanding: will increase its reach into at least 250 LA schools (and at least 400,000 Angelenos) during the course of this initiative. In addition, these 2020 election resources will be available for every school in LA. Through the two projects and events described in this initiative, 2,000 LAUSD students will complete both a 2020 election Project Soapbox speech and Action Project by the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

Engaging: Action Civics CA program staff will provide 100 hours of in-classroom support and host two city-wide events for students to connect across neighborhoods and districts.

Learning:LA Youth Civics in Action students will be able to analyze local systems of power and identify community decision-makers and strategies for mobilizing people around a community objective or concern, as documented by teachers and self-reported on student surveys.

Connecting: LA Youth Civics in Action students will participate in civic community work during and after the program and have meaningful interactions with community, government, business, and civic leaders, as documented by teachers and self-reported on student surveys.

Growing: Student social emotional learning capabilities will improve in the form of public speaking, confidence, leadership skills, problem-solving, empathy, and feeling like they are part of a larger community, as documented by teachers and self-reported on student surveys. In addition, all participating students will have meaningful adult-youth relationships.

As students conduct their research, learn the presidential candidates’ views, localize the issues and take action on them, they are building the skills for informed voting, and, if not yet 18, to self-identify as future voters, and as activists. With the California Assembly considering 2 bills that would lower the voting age to 17, this initiative is timely and important.