LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jefferson County Public Schools is funding a new curriculum to promote student civic engagement, using a gift of $60,000 per year for three years, matched by $40,000 a year from the district itself. It’s aimed at encouraging voting, staying informed on current issues and presenting students’ own ideas on solutions to problems in the community. It’s called the Mikva Challenge.
With a surge in voter turnout, young people look to November to get out the vote. Before then, students will “engage beyond the walls of the school building and will ask questions and act within the various spaces and places of their community, raising further awareness around the need for young people to articulate their vision and impact change,” Ryan New said.
New, JCPS’ Social Studies Instructional Lead, explained, “democratic communities need young people engaging in democratic processes.”
“I think if you look at what’s happened to our city over the last few months, I think it’s really telling that everybody is ready for civic engagement. And what we’re hoping to do with a curriculum like this is to give more knowledge, more experiences, a shift in understanding in what democracy actually looks like,” he added.
It’s not the first time New has tried to show students the importance of social studies and real-life applications. As part of another project last fall, students experienced the exhibit ‘What Is A Vote Worth?” to commemorate women’s suffrage at The Frazier History Museum.
“The way that we all grew up in, is that you should write a letter to your local official and you should go out and vote. What this curriculum does is really expand and makes routine the idea that students need to be able to form committees, they’ve gotta be able to work through public ideas. They’ve gotta be able to look at questions and figure out how those questions can lead to changes,” said New.
Last year, students of age were even able to register to vote while at school.