Civic engagement program for local students must motivate and inspire
The Vanguard Vision
April 25, 2011 —
This week, we put the spotlight on the Engage the Great Lakes Bay Region grant. The goal is to motivate high school students to be civically engaged from a young age through their adult lives. The programís founders want the initiative to give students reasons to be involved not only during high school, but also in college and beyond.
The Vanguard thinks that this program can be beneficial for its participants, but careful planning must go into its implementation so that students in the Great Lakes Bay area learn what it means to be a citizen who is civically engaged.
One concern we have is how to teach civic engagement. In the programís description, much of the engagement is based on action, such as voter registration and volunteerism. There is little that addresses attitudes. To be effective, this program must show the attitudes students can have while being civically engaged. Simply saying ďItís your dutyĒ isnít enough of a reason anymore. How civic engagement affects an individual in specific detail, however, might be enough.
Another concern we have is about the role of technology in this program. Much of the grantís funding will go toward equipment and social media. We wonder if this type of technology is the best way to interest students to continue civic engagement beyond their high school academics. Technology is useful, but only if itís innovative. Technology in this program must give students the opportunity to gain connections with others while gaining insights into themselves.
One issue that may need to be addressed while using technology to connect with students is the media and information overload we face on a daily basis. In our society, we are used to getting our information based on quantity, not quality. This might pose a problem in terms of not only learning what it means to be civically engaged, but also how to make the message stick for a lifetime.
Lastly, we ask what the best way to motivate these students may be. The message of civic engagement must not only inspire, but also must spark an interest. Those who teach through the program must genuinely be interested in helping those students. Students can tell if their teachers or professors donít feel an interest in the topic. Once students realize this lack of interest, they may take the role of civic engagement less seriously or worse, feel no need to be involved at all.
We look forward to the benefits this program can have on the region. It has the potential to be the catalyst for major participation changes from a younger generation. But the need to get students interested isnít enough. This program must inspire students to be civically engaged for their whole lives.