As the Illinois presidential primary and various other congressional campaigns ended on Tuesday, March 20, so did the almost semester-long efforts of students from around the city. CPS students learned about the electoral process and participated in supporting the elections.
This school year hundreds of students participated in a program called Elections in Action, which is facilitated by Mikva Challenge, a non-partisan, non-profit group that works to increase student participation in our democracy. Students spent several sessions, either in class or in after school programs, working through curriculum covering the importance of voting, how elections work, and understanding the ideology of major and third parties. Students also identified their own personal ideology and what they believe about issues that face our democracy.
From there students examined why people do and do not participate in elections and what makes a good candidate. Finally, students identified a candidate, or several candidates, they wanted to support.
In order to fulfill the requirements of the program students had to have three campaigning experiences lasting at least two hours. This was a great opportunity for students who were at first too intimidated to even call a volunteer coordinator to find themselves phone banking for one or going door to door across Chicagoland to canvas for their candidate. Once completed students write a reflective piece about their experience.
This first-hand and ground-level view of democracy is one that empowers students to recognize that the electoral process is one that they can play an important part in, both as volunteers and, hopefully one day soon, as candidates!