By Janet Hernandez, Senior Civic Engagement Project Manager
On September 27, about 20 teachers at our Affiliate, Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, in Washington, DC, introduced NCLR’s High School Democracy Project to their students. Carlos Rosario is a leading educational institution that predominantly serves the immigrant community in the area, and has been instrumental in implementing this exciting new program.
The same week, in California and 15 other states, teachers were also preparing their students for the NCLR National Week of Action, when the new program would be rolled out to students across the country. Four Affiliates in NCLR’s network contributed to the development of the High School Democracy Project: East Austin College Prep, Houston Gateway Academy, Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans’ George I. Sanchez Charter School, and Academia Avance.
Over the past year, our staff has worked together with teachers, students, and administrators in these schools to develop a six-lesson curriculum that guides students through the different aspects of democracy, including the right to vote and the role of government in our lives.
From September 19 to 23, 53 partner organization implemented the curriculum in 16 states, including Texas and California, the two states with the largest Latino youth populations.
Students at Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School are adults who attend English language learner, general education development, and career classes. They are immigrants advancing their education to achieve the American Dream. One teacher, Ms. Anderson, is using the curriculum in her nursing class, offering students the opportunity to register through our Latinos Vote app.
According to a Child Trends report, only 16% of 18–24-year-olds voted in the 2014 election. Young Latinos had the second-lowest turnout rate in 2012 at 32%. To combat this, NCLR began developing the democracy curriculum a year ago.
Meanwhile in California, Academia Avance Charter School used the curriculum with their senior class. Over the past year, Academia Avance registered 54 eligible seniors to vote in this election and will be using the curriculum every year in the school’s government classes.
“As a newly registered voter, I’m really excited to vote for the first time because I want to know how it feels to speak my mind with my vote; I hope my vote makes a difference in our community,” said Melissa Garcia, an Academia Avance graduate who recently turned 18.
Just like Melissa, there are millions of students turning 18 every year in high schools around the country. There are also many people like Rosy, a student at Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School who became a citizen in July of this year, who need to be integrated into our democracy as well. This integration requires the right approach so they can learn about their new country and be engaged in its democracy. As election season winds down, we look forward to the results of this first year of the curriculum and working with new voters in the years to come.
Download the curriculum to learn more about it. Let’s get youth back into our democracy!