Community Development

Six Cities Present Plans to Reduce and Prevent Youth Violence

Officials from Boston; Chicago; Detroit; Memphis, Tenn.; Salinas, Calif.; and San Jose, Calif., have spent the past several months preparing plans detailing how they can work within their communities to address youth violence.

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."

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

AmeriCorps (formerly the Corporation for National and Community Service, or CNCS) is a federal agency that sends people power and funding to communities across the country for causes such as disaster response, opioid crisis, and education.

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.

AmeriCorps (Formerly the Corporation for National and Community Service, CNCS)
AmeriCorps was created (as CNCS) as an independent agency of the United States government by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. AmeriCorps brings people together to tackle the country’s most pressing challenges, through national service and volunteering.

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 AmeriCorps, 2005
8 Lopez, Levine, Both, Kiesa, Kirby, & Marcelo, 2006
9 American Psychological Association, 2010
10 College of Southern Maryland, 2010

Preparedness & Recovery

Disasters are often unpredictable and can happen at any time and to anyone. They may be natural, man-made, or both. Disasters are defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as an occurrence that has resulted in property damage, deaths, and/or injuries to a community,1 and  may include floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, fires, illnesses, chemical or radiation emergencies, and terrorist or bioterrorist attacks, among others.

At the end of the 20th century, disasters affected an estimated 66.5 million children each year world-wide and it is estimated that this number will continue to grow as a result of societal changes (e.g., conflicts, hunger) and climate changes.2 Around the world and in the U.S., disasters disproportionately affect poor populations—both youth3 and families—as a result of risk factors such as living in environmentally vulnerable locations, living in less stable housing, and having poor physical health.4 According to the 2010 U.S. Census, children under 18 made up 24 percent of the total U.S. population, but 35.5 percent of the people living in poverty resulting in a higher poverty rate for children under the age of 18 than any other age group.5  Further, research suggests that youth, specifically school-age youth, tend to be more severely affected by disasters than adults and may experience disasters differently due to age and other factors.6

Ensuring youth and their families know what to do in an emergency and that the unique needs and assets of youth are included in disaster preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery efforts is critical.7 While many individuals report that they are aware of disasters and their potential effects, fewer report that they have undertaken steps to plan for or prepare for disasters.8 Prevention and preparedness refer to the planning and actions that occur prior to a disaster. This may include preparing for public health threats, developing an emergency response plan, creating an emergency preparedness kit, or taking steps to address things that may cause a disaster. Response and recovery refer to actions that occur during and after disasters or emergencies. Responses to emergencies may include sheltering in place or evacuating, and recovery may include repairing damaged infrastructure, reuniting families, replacing supplies, addressing emotional responses and revising response plans. Youth-serving agencies can play an important role educating youth about disasters and teaching them coping mechanisms. Involving them in prevention, preparedness, recovery, and response efforts can help to ensure that youth, families, and communities are prepared and able to respond when faced with disasters.

1 FEMA, 1990
2 Penrose & Takaki, 2006
3 The target population for this topic is youth ages 10-24. In some cases research included in the topic focuses on a wider population including children under the age of 10.
4 Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, n.d.
5 U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2011
6 Norris et al., 2002; Ronan, 2010
7 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2010
8 Redlener, Grant, Abramson, & Johnson, 2008; Ronan, 2010

Atlanta Housing Authority

The Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) partners with service organizations in Atlanta to provide comprehensive, coordinated services to almost 50,000 customers in the Atlanta metro area. AHA’s service collaborations provide customers with appropriate supports as they meet work, minimum rent, and individual development requirements as determined by the AHA.

YouthGo.gov

The Department of the Interior (DOI) supports and promotes youth involvement in the environment by working across bureaus within DOI to develop policies and programs that support youth engagement, collaborating with other federal departments and initiatives that support youth involvement in the great outdoors, and sharing information and resources through a youth-targeted website, YouthGo.gov.

Youth ChalleNGe Program

The AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) and the Department of Defense's National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program began their collaboration in 2009 as a way to assist one another with placement and leadership opportunities for disadvantaged and out-of-school youth serving in their programs.

Partnership for Results

Partnership for Results(The Partnership) is a model of local governance designed to implement a broad spectrum of evidence-based programs for the benefit of youth at risk. Operating in Cayuga County in Central New York, it has improved outcomes for children and youth and their families since its founding in 2000.

USDA and the Military: Positive Youth Development

The U.S. Department of Agriculture partners with the Department of Defense’s Office of Military Community and Family Policy and the Army, Navy, and Air Force to support military-connected children and youth, and to ensure that service members are able to focus on readiness and the mission.

Promise Neighborhoods

The Promise Neighborhoods program is a place-based approach focused on addressing generational family and community poverty by ensuring quality educational opportunities and providing a range of supports for children, youth, families, and communities.