By Tom Kerr-Vanderslice, Rhode Island Executive Director
In 2012, I moved back to my home state of Rhode Island to join a young, startup nonprofit called Generation Citizen. While our “Providence office” was me alone, and the entire organization was just 5 people across the country, I was so excited to work with a group of people who had already ambitiously set a goal to transform our education system and ensure that all young people had access to a civics education that prepared them for a lifetime of active democratic participation. Now after nearly 8 years of leading this work in my home state of Rhode Island, I am departing from Generation Citizen.
Since opening our 1-person Rhode Island office, over 13,000 students in Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Woonsocket, Bristol, Warren, Kingston and Newport have completed the program. Rhode Island as a community has transformed from a state of apathy and indifference towards civics education into one of action, as more and more districts across the state are working with Generation Citizen to embed civic learning into their curricula. We have collaborated with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce H.7577, a bill that when passed will ensure all RI students receive an effective civic education, and most importantly, young people have taken up the mantle, exemplified by Rhode Island youth suing for the right to a civic education or working in Central Falls to create systems in their schools for participatory budgeting.
Through all Generation Citizen’s growth and accomplishments, the true joy of my time has been the opportunity to work with truly exceptional and amazing people. I have spent countless hours listening to students excitedly tackle problems with confidence and courage regardless of if they were 11 or 18. I have had the chance to work with teachers, volunteers and educators who care incredibly deeply about their students and work tirelessly to ensure that young people are given an opportunity to make their voices heard. Finally, I have been privileged to be a member of our community of Rhode Island Board members, colleagues, peers, organizations and leaders that make our Ocean State truly unique in this world. To everyone and anyone who has been part of Generation Citizen Rhode Island during this time, all I can say is “Thank You.” All of our work is shared, and none of it would have been possible without your support and time.
As I depart, Generation Citizen’s work is only just beginning. Amidst this global pandemic, we see the importance of a practical civics education and the pressing need to strengthen our collective democracy every day. Our Rhode Island team, led by Rhode Island Program Director Kristina Pires, is rising the occasion of these unprecedented times, and we hope that you will continue working alongside Generation Citizen to move forward and meet the challenges of this time.
So thank you again, and hope to see you again soon as I join the ranks of dedicated and enthusiastic community supporters of Generation Citizen.
Until we see each other next!