Civic Engagement for Students During Summer 2020
Civic responsibility has steadily declined over the decades. In 2014, one poll found that Americans were "less likely" to ask what they can do for their country, with a mere 37% believing that keeping up with news and public issues was important. In 1984, this figure was 56%. The passage of time seems to have led to people becoming skeptical that they can actually make a difference, so why try?
Fortunately, it seems the tide is changing. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought people together to unite in fighting for common goals or, at the very least, recognizing the problems society faces. Since civic engagement involves people working to make a difference in their communities (or on a larger scale) and learning the skills, knowledge and values to accomplish these goals, many now realize they must get involved to make change happen.
Students looking to increase their civic engagement during summer 2020 can consider the following top 10 opportunities and initiatives.
1. Stay informed
Being informed is one of the first steps to civic engagement. Students can follow news updates to learn what's happening on the national, state and community levels. Understanding how to find trustworthy news sources is vital. To further increase knowledge (with social distancing in mind), attending college or community-sponsored events about issues or visiting museums are good initiatives.
2. Learn U.S. political philosophy and history
The basics of the U.S. government are taught in public education, but students can further develop their understanding by taking a summer course in political science, public policy or related topics. Learn more about why the Founding Fathers structured the government the way they did to better understand the government of today.
3. See government in action
Students can learn valuable lessons by attending municipal council or community board meetings. With isolation policies in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, opportunities might be limited. However, students can still watch television or web-based broadcasts and submit questions and concerns via online channels.
4. Initiate community-based projects
Young people are great at driving change and can often identify new solutions because they approach long-standing problems with fresh perspectives. Students can look to engage with their friends and neighbors to solve a local problem. Many initiatives such as delivering groceries to people at high risk for COVID-19, initiating neighborhood cleanups, planting trees and refurbishing playgrounds can be safely done while social distancing.
5. Join a volunteer organization
Summertime is the perfect time to volunteer while between semesters. Need doesn't stop even when the rest of society does, and organizations are still looking for help. Research to see what local or national programs are seeking assistance. Even with COVID-19 restrictions in place, plenty of volunteer opportunities exist.
6. Host a virtual debate watch party
As Election Day nears, candidates will debate key issues. While it's likely virtual debates will occur, so can watch parties. Organize a Zoom (or another video app) event with fellow students and friends. Inviting people with diversified beliefs to represent different viewpoints can lead to a healthy discussion, as long as it's respectful.
7. Register to vote
Students not registered to vote should make a point to register over the summer. The break between semesters is a great time to explore the viewpoints of the candidates on the ballot or any issues local communities will be voting on. If you're over 18, you have the right to vote. Exercise that right.
8. Support local small businesses
Small businesses make up 99% of all U.S.-based businesses, and many have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Where affordable, young adults can support local businesses to help them stay afloat during this health crisis. They can take it a step further by researching which companies support community or hold values they believe in - consumer dollars speak loudly.
9. See the First Amendment in action
As society begins to open up post-pandemic, if any public demonstrations or marches are scheduled, college students can look to attend one. Alternatively, if summer doesn't open up possibilities to go out and show support for an issue, searching for online grassroots efforts to join can make an impact too.
10. Join a local club
Joining a club is a fun way to increase civic engagement for students because they can meet local people with common interests. Connecting with people in the community often insights more neighborhood pride and increased awareness of community-based problems, resulting in better opportunities to fulfill a need and help others.
College students wanting to become more involved in civic engagement will find there are many opportunities. Net Impact's programs seek to help new leaders broaden their thinking, grow networks and ultimately make a positive impact in society. Contact us to learn more about our programs.