In November 2020, WCA hosted two (2) virtual workshops with high school students from Sleepy Hollow High School (SHHS) as part of our civic engagement initiative, Project 2020. We met with 60 upper-class students in collaboration with the Social Studies Department at SHHS during their Government and Contemporary Issues classes. About 95% of students surveyed reported that they enjoyed the workshops and even more rated it as ‘helpful.’
Using Zoom to host our 1.5-hour virtual sessions, students were led by WCA staff in small breakout rooms to discuss issues and efforts for change in their community. They participated in class-wide discussions about their passions and experiences with civic engagement. We were impressed with their deep dives into voting, connecting with decision-makers, and being active on a community level. After giving detailed overviews of voting and community decision making, we asked students why they think young people have historically not turned out to vote.
Identified Reasons for Low Voter Turnout Among Young People
- The lack of education on the voting process and candidates,
- perceptions that their vote doesn’t count,
- parents have different political views, and that
- voting itself can be difficult, confusing, and research-intensive.
Issues Students Were Passionate About
- Criminal justice reform,
- climate change,
- gun control,
- systemic racism and prejudice,
- women’s rights, and political division
We equipped students with more information on voting, pre-registering to vote at age 16 and 17, and civic engagement rights through our Project 2020 Toolkits. Then we asked them which topics they found most useful and found a tie between all topics covered. Between sessions, we had students work in small groups through various aspects of community change such as identifying a problem, identifying those who would be impacted, finding data in support of the problem, and connecting with decision-makers who have the influence to improve the situation. Students presented their work to the class and were actually able to teach each other more about their issue of the choice. Many students shared that they did not know hunger was such a problem in Westchester and that it has doubled since COVID-19 began to impact Westchester.
Hear from the students themselves as they reflected on the new information they had gained through Project 2020:
- “I am more capable of helping in my community than I thought.”
- “More in-depth information about local leadership.”
- “There are a lot of people in the community who would be willing to help us get involved with certain issues that we find important.”
- “That raising your voice for your belief can have a structure to cause change.”
We thank Kids Club of Tarrytown for their financial support. WCA looks forward to staying in touch with students and faculty at Sleepy Hollow High School and know that they will use skills, resources, and information gained through Project 2020 to improve their lives and community.
Continue to check out website and use our Toolkits to spark engagement with someone you know!
WCA 10th eBulletin – our last one for 2020!