STEAM-powered Civics for LA Youth
The Civics Center is empowering young people through civics education. With this grant, TCC will collaborate with educators to support student-led voter registration drives and create STEAM-supported extra-curricular civic engagement opportunities based on voter registration statistics, civics education, and leadership skills. By combining the real-world skills of organizing a drive with the data-driven exploration of voter registration statistics, we can make voter registration a part of every LA County student's high school experience.
What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?
K-12 STEAM Education
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
County of Los Angeles
City of Los Angeles
In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?
Expand existing project, program, or initiative
What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?
Every year, four million Americans turn 18 and become eligible to vote - but less than half of them do so. Though California allows young people to preregister to vote starting at age 16, less than 15% of 16- to 17-year-olds In LA County are preregistered. Our research in LA County shows an inverse correlation between child poverty rates and registration rates of the youngest eligible voters. Thus, low-income high schools (defined as schools where at least 50% of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch) represent a critical opportunity to empower young voters, particularly those that are historically disenfranchised based on race/ethnicity, educational attainment and socio-economic status. To strengthen our democracy here in LA, we must act to make voter registration and civic engagement a part of every high school students' experience, empowering a generation of lifelong voters able to advocate for themselves and their communities.
Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.
The STEAM-powered Civics for LA Youth project will create a cultural shift in schools' approach to civic engagement by: 1) supporting teachers in creating relevant, localized classroom lessons on civic engagement that 2) leverages a STEAM approach to voter registration data as a tool for engaging students in 3) youth-led voter registration efforts. TCC has demonstrated its ability to support educators in facilitating student-led voter registration drives and to develop tools and research to help young people measure and understand their civic impact. This project will expand on TCC's work by allowing us to combine these areas of expertise in a paid professional learning opportunity. The professional development series will train educators on accessing and analyzing hyperlocal data on youth civic engagement and empowering student-leaders in running effective voter registration drives. The outcome will be for educators to design a unique lesson plan and related drive strategy that incorporates youth voice, data analysis and a plan for replicating the effort year after year. The Civics Center will support schools in executing on their drive strategy by coaching student-educator teams, providing lesson plan resources and free Democracy in a Box toolkits that include physical and digital materials needed for a drive. Our program gives educators the requisite tools to effectively support students and lay a sustainable foundation for future youth civic leadership.
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
In the short term, this program empowers students and educators to develop a deeper understanding of youth civic power and share that knowledge through voter registration drives scaffolded by STEAM-driven curriculum. This will bring more voter registration drives to LA County schools and a higher level of civic awareness and sense of efficacy for students in those schools. In the long term, we know that students who register early on are more likely to become lifelong voters and remain civically engaged. The students who help facilitate the drive will have developed increased skills in communicating, organizing and leadership, 21st century skills they can use later in life. Finally, these schools will have the institutional knowledge that is needed to make these opportunities available to students year after year, paving the way for a stronger, more equitable and just multi-racial democracy here in LA County.
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
Paid, in-depth professional development represents a new investment in educators that enriches our proven program. Our program has a strong track record: we've trained more than 1500 students and educators who've gone on to hold over 450 high school voter registration drives. Temple University Professor David Nickerson, an expert on evaluating voting programs, reviewed our 2021 pilot program in Orange County, California and found that our student-led drives raised voter registration rates by 6.3 percentage points above rates in comparable school districts, with no obvious barriers to scale. We'll continue to measure effectiveness by tracking numbers of student-leaders, drives, and voter registration form completions, tracking interactions with our online voter registration portal, and comparing changes in voter registration rates for 18-year-olds in high schools and school districts with our program versus those without it.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
Direct Impact: 66
Indirect Impact: 2,000