Keeping Score: Tools for Getting Young People Civically Engaged

What will it take to get more young Alabamians civically engaged in their communities?

At the David Mathews Center for Civic Life (DMC), we believe that “[Young people] can only learn how to be civically engaged by being civically engaged.”

According to our 2015 Alabama Civic Health Index (ACHI), “Nearly every indicator of civic health is positively correlated with educational attainment.” The ACHI provides comparative measurements of civic health in three indicators: political action, social connectedness, and public work. The DMC uses this report, among others, to guide our civic education programming and resources.

The ACHI findings place our state as average in most measures of political action, and among the top in social connectedness. However, Alabamians rank significantly lower in measurements of public work, which include attending public meetings and collaborating to address local issues. Alabamians are good neighbors, but not so good at solving community problems. We at the DMC believe these findings illustrate a statewide need to prepare our upcoming generation to work better together.

We work towards this goal in part through Students’ Institute and the Alabama Civic Scorecard. Students’ Institute is a signature program of the David Mathews Center that partners with local community leaders. Its goal is not only to increase civic knowledge, but also to build civic skills and dispositions of elementary, middle and high school participants through active civic learning and community engagement.

This September, we are delighted to announce the launch of an updated 2016–17 version of the Alabama Civic Scorecard, which includes the state’s upcoming Bicentennial Celebration. The Scorecard is a simple educational tool, designed so that anyone can use it to track their active citizenship and promote civic engagement in the classroom and in the community.

We invite educators and parents to download the scorecard and create their own adaptations, with acknowledgement. Students who send their completed Scorecard to the DMC will receive a Certificate of Completion. We hope that as young people are regularly invited to name and achieve the basic components of what it means to be an active community member, the health of Alabama civic life will be sustained and enhanced for future generations.

To share how the Scorecard has enhanced your civic life, students and teachers may post on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter using the hashtag #ALcivicstrong.

Parents and educators are also welcome to download an accompanying resource, which further explains the goals of the scorecard.

For more information, contact alcivicscorecard@mathewscenter.org.

By Laura Vickery, Civic Fellow at the David Mathews Center for Civic Life

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