Dept. of Education

Secretary Duncan Hosts First Meeting with National Council of Young Leaders

The National Council of Young Leaders is a newly established council with a diverse group of young people.  The council, which launched on September 19, has 14 founding members ranging in ages 18-34, representing both urban and rural low- income areas, who advise policy makers, business leaders and foundations on issues affecting low-income youth and their communities.

The CITY Project

The Community Improvement Through Youth (CITY) Project uses Youth Community Action, a Cornell Cooperative Extension Signature Program, as a model for promoting civic engagement, workforce preparation, and asset development among youth (13-18 years old) in New York State’s Children, Youth and Families At Risk (CYFAR) Project. Using a broad-based community collaboration approach, the CITY Project is working in Broome County and New York City to empower at-risk youth to become community change agents.

Washington State Youth Take Civic Activism To New Level

photo of Sierra"I don't think anyone should have to go through what a lot of kids face; I've been taking care of my mom since I was ten," says Sierra, a student facing family mental health issues, who attends school in a Spokane dropout retrieval program.

"And life isn't fair, but you have to learn how to deal with it anyways. All the life problems outside the school doors come first before we are going to read a textbook."

Stopping the Summer Slide with Energy Express

Under the leadership of the West Virginia University Extension 4-H Youth Development, Energy Express is a research based summer reading and nutrition program for children living in rural and low-income West Virginia. AmeriCorps has been Energy Express’s largest funder and source of volunteers since 1995. According to one of its youth participants, Energy Express is “awesome and fun.”

Students weigh in on 2020 College Completion Goal

President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have an ambitious agenda to create a world class education system, and lead the world in college completion.

U.S. Government sets goal to end youth homelessness in 10 years

The U.S. Department of Education reported that 53,000 homeless youth were supported through school-based programs last year, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development counted more than 22,000 young people in emergency or transitional housing in 2009.  Another 110,000 youth are believed to be living on the streets. It is likely this is a serious underestimate of the total number of homeless youth, but the actual number of youth experiencing homelessness is unknown.

Youth Speakers Share Their Hopes for the Future

I know now it's not where I'm from; it's where I'm going. It's not what I drive; it's what drives me. It's not what's on me; it's what's in me. And it's not what I think; it's what I know. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. And that's exactly what I plan to do: I will make my own trail and set my own goals. — Chardae Anderson, age 18

October 14, 2009

Civic Engagement

Civic engagement involves “working to make a difference in the civic life of one’s community and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.”1 Civic engagement includes both paid and unpaid forms of political activism, environmentalism, and community and national service.2 Volunteering, national service, and service-learning are all forms of civic engagement.

According to the 2006 National Civic and Political Health Survey, seven percent of 15- to 25-year-old Americans participated in 10 or more community engagement or political activities within the previous year.3 When compared to their peers who report no civic engagement activities, this group was more likely to be African-American, urban, attend church regularly, from a family with parents who volunteer, a current student (in college or high school), and from college-educated home.4

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is a federal agency established in 1993 that engages Americans in service through its core programs: AmeriCorps, and Senior Corps, as well as national volunteer efforts through Serve.gov. CNCS serves as the nation’s largest grantmaker for service and volunteering and harnesses the energy and talents of citizens to solve problems. Everyone can make a difference and should try, regardless of age.

Participation in civic engagement activities can help youth become better informed about current events. For example, according to the 2006 National Civic and Political Health Survey, approximately a quarter of youth who had not participated in civic engagement activities within the last year did not answer any questions regarding current politics correctly.5

Definition and Constructs

Youth civic engagement is defined as working to make a difference in the civic life of one’s community. It also involves developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference.6 These activities enrich the lives of youths and are socially beneficial to the community. Four interrelated constructs have been identified in the research literature as necessary for civic engagement (see Figure 1).

FIGURE 1: FOUR CONSTRUCTS OF CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

Four Constructs of Civic Engagement: Civic Action, Civic Commitment or Duty, Civic Skills, Social Cohesion

Volunteering is only one form of civic engagement included, as defined above, in the construct of civic action and civic commitment or duty, but research has also shown a connection between youth who volunteer and other forms of youth civic engagement. Findings suggest that “among youth, volunteering plays a valuable role in shaping how youth learn to interact with their community and develop the skills, values, and sense of empowerment necessary to become active citizens.”7

While many youth volunteer, most young people do not see a connection between volunteering and political engagement or activism. In the 2006 National Civic and Political Health Survey, the majority of young people said that they volunteered in order to help others, not to address a social or political problem. Only six percent of youth believed that their volunteering was a means to address social or political problems.8

Another possible form of civic action and civic commitment and duty is service-learning. According to the American Psychological Association,9 service-learning and civic engagement can be related but are not the same thing. Service-learning does not have to include a civic dimension and all forms of civic engagement are not service-learning. Civic engagement is a broader concept that may encompass, but is not limited to, service-learning. Service-learning differs from community service or volunteerism in two distinct ways:

  • The service activity is integrated with academic curriculum and content.
  • Students engage in reflection activities after their service experience and apply their learning in real-life activities.10

Resources

Character and Civic Education
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools’ Character and Civic Education group administers various programs in character and civics education. These programs include providing financial assistance for character and citizenship education activities in elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education, and reporting on issues and programs, disseminating information, and providing technical assistance to state agencies and state and local correctional institutions.

Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)
CNCS was created as an independent agency of the United States government by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. The mission of CNCS is to “support the American culture of citizenship, service, and responsibility.” Currently, CNCS delivers several programs that are designed to help communities address poverty, the environment, education, and other unmet human needs. From 1993-2013, Learn and Serve America provided funding and other resources to support school-based, higher education, and community-based service-learning.

Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen (PDF, 43 Pages)
This resource from the U.S. Department of Education provides information about the values and skills that contribute to character and good citizenship, including guidance on what parents can do to help their elementary-, middle-, and high school-aged children develop strong character.

References

1 Erlich, 2000
2 Michelsen, Zaff, & Hair, 2002
3 Lopez, Levine, Both, Kiesa, Kirby, & Marcelo, 2006
4 Dávila & Mora, 2007
5 Dávila & Mora, 2007
6 Erlich, 2000
7 Corporation for National and Community Service, 2005
8 Lopez, Levine, Both, Kiesa, Kirby, & Marcelo, 2006
9 American Psychological Association, 2010
10 College of Southern Maryland, 2010

Afterschool Programs

Afterschool programs (sometimes called OST or Out-of-School Time) serve children and youth of all ages, and encompass a broad range of focus areas including academic support, mentoring, youth development, arts, and sports and recreation. The activities in which children and youth engage while outside of school hours are critical to their development, highlighting the need for quality afterschool programs in all communities. The demand for afterschool programs is strong; current estimates suggest that nearly 10 million children and youth participate in afterschool programs annually, 10 million in summer camps, and 6 million in 4-H programs alone (Yohalem, Pittman, and Edwards, 2010).

High quality afterschool programs generate positive outcomes for youth including improved academic performance, classroom behavior, and health and nutrition. Communities and businesses also benefit when youth have safe and productive ways to spend their time while their parents are at work. Several Federal agencies provide support and resources to afterschool programs to help promote positive outcomes for youth. Explore the articles and links on this page to learn more about afterschool.


Yohalem, N., Pittman, K., & Edwards, S. (2010).  Strengthening the youth development/after-school workforce: Lessons learned and implications for funders. Washington, DC: The Forum for Youth Investment and Cornerstones for Kids.

Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3)

Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth offer a unique opportunity to test innovative, cost-effective, and outcome-focused strategies for improving results for disconnected youth. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (see p. 409 of the linked PDF) first provided authority to the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services along with the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and related agencies to enter into up to 10 Performance Partnership agreements with states, regions, localities, or tribal communities that give them additional flexibility in using discretionary funds across multiple Federal programs. Since 2014, P3 has expanded to include certain programs from the Departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development. Pilot sites will commit to achieve significant improvements for disconnected youth in educational, employment, and other key outcomes in exchange for this new flexibility. For P3, statute defines disconnected youth as individuals between the ages of 14 and 24 who are low income and either homeless, in foster care, involved in the juvenile justice system, unemployed, or not enrolled in or at risk of dropping out of an educational institution.

The resources below provide more information on P3 opportunities. Questions can be directed to disconnectedyouth@ed.gov.