By Janet Hernandez, Senior Civic Engagement Project Manager and David Castillo, Digital Content Manager
With nearly one million Latino citizen youth turning 18 every year, the Latino voting population continues to grow and become active in our democracy, but there is more work to do. In the last election millennials had the lowest turnout rate of all age groups. To close this gap, NCLR launched the High School Democracy Project at East Austin College Prep last month to increase youth voter participation by engaging high school students and teachers across the country.
Melissa Garcia, a high school senior at NCLR California Affiliate Academia Avance, became a registered voter on April 28, her 18th birthday and day of the curriculum launch; she was preregistered in the state of California. “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.”
The High School Democracy Project was designed in coordination with East Austin College Prep, Houston Gateway Academy, Academia Avance, and AAMA’s George I. Sanchez Charter School. The curriculum includes six lessons; it starts with an overview of government, explains the different types of governments including democracy, walks through the voter registration process, and provides the option for students to engage in their community after they vote.
Teachers and administrators can use the curriculum with students in the classroom as well as in after-school programs. Since the lessons can be used as standalone pieces, they can also be used in other settings such as adult education classes or general community workshops.
“What we wanted was for students to have a safe place to experience all of democracy from voter registration to campaigning and to the polls,” said Alejandro Johnson, government teacher at East Austin College Prep, who carried out a curriculum lesson with students in his classroom.
Johnson was instrumental in leading a mock election and a voter registration effort at East Austin College Prep, which signed up nearly half the senior class to vote. Many of them cast their ballot in the Texas primary. One of the students who registered to vote was Laura Plascencio, pictured below, who will be voting for the first time in the presidential election on November 8, 2016.
“I’ve been a teacher for 10 years and I’ve seen lots of kids graduate and I’ve had lots of proud moments. But, the very best, truly, was seeing the smiles on those students’ faces when they walked out of those polls and they knew that they had done something special,” said Johnson.
For more information about the NCLR High School Democracy Project, please contact Janet Hernandez at [email protected].