Generation Citizen teaches teenagers direct political action. Through an innovative in-class curriculum, students work with local leaders to fix local problems.
Over the course of the twice-weekly semester-long in-class program, students choose an issue they want to tackle in their own community, develop a focused, strategic plan to address an issue they care about, and then take real action on it. Students lobby elected officials, write opinion pieces for newspapers, and make documentaries to advance solutions to important community issues. Through direct engagement in real-world advocacy, guided by near-peer college Democracy Coaches and teachers, students gain the civic knowledge, skills, and motivation necessary to effect change in their communities.
Each semester culminates in Civics Day, in which student representatives from classes in each city present their work to other students, community members, and public officials, celebrating their work and gaining feedback to further their efforts. Civics Day is a chance for students to celebrate their success and explore ways to continue their civic engagement after the end of the program.
The core elements of our work include
The traditional notion of civics is a rote class, in which young people learn about government through hearing about the three branches of government and how a bill becomes a law. In GC, students learn about politics by getting their hands dirty, and actually taking action. Just as students learn math by doing math, and learn science through science experiments, our students learn politics by doing politics- taking action on issues they care about.
Generation Citizen trains and pairs college volunteers (Democracy Coaches) with secondary school teachers to co-teach our classes. This creates a community of curious, active young learners sharing ideas about how to solve their society’s most pressing problems. Peer-to-near-peer mentoring works: high school students can relate to role models and emulate their civic leadership. Democracy Coaches promote students’ civic engagement in two ways:
1) Peer-to-near-peer mentoring works; high school students can better relate to college role models and emulate their civic leadership. Also, students may often be more comfortable broaching difficult issues, such as teen pregnancy, with Democracy Coaches who are closer in age.
2) Democracy Coaches add vital capacity for teachers, helping with the lesson planning and research that enable the successful implementation of GC’s student-centered, project-based curriculum.
By operating within school hours, Generation Citizen ensures that all students learn about their role in the political process. We take this responsibility seriously and work closely with school districts and state departments of education to align curriculum with state and Common Core standards. Generation Citizen’s interdisciplinary curriculum includes the direct instruction of concrete literacy skills through civics content.
Generation Citizen’s focus on lower-income students and students of color is due to our consideration of the growing achievement gap. We work to promote civic education broadly, but we emphasize work with under-served populations first.