April 19, 2016
(Philadelphia, PA) More than 950 high-school students from 22 high schools in Philadelphia and Montgomery County are participating in Committee of Seventy’s expanded Election Ambassador Corps trainings this spring. That’s more than a 50% increase from the number who participated last fall. The students prepared to serve as Election Ambassadors more than 1,000 polling places near their homes on Pennsylvania’s Primary Day, April 26.
After the election Seventy will field the Election Innovation Challenge, a competition that provides high-school students a platform to work in small groups and creatively suggest ways in which the voting process can be improved in Philadelphia. The Challenge will be open to every high school student in the five-county Philadelphia region.
The goal of Seventy’s innovative service learning project, now in its second year, is to instill a lifelong interest in civic engagement in teenagers. It’s Seventy’s response to the growing concern about the alarmingly low voter participation rates among our youngest voters – 12% of voters 18-34 participated in Philadelphia’s May 2015 Mayoral Primary.
The programs consist of six main elements:
Students from the following schools are participating in the April 26 primary:
“Young people today certainly are interested in public life. They volunteer, they’re educated on current events, but still the majority of young folks don’t vote. We have great hopes for the Corps—a similar effort in Chicago recruits 4,000 high school students every year to assist voters at the polls—and we think the Corps can really help develop the next generation of super-voters and super-citizens,” said David Thornburgh, CEO, Committee of Seventy.
Ms. Charlene Gottman, a Social Studies teacher at Bodine High, said "Students enjoyed the training session, and I could see that they got to apply some of the things we've learned about voting. The Election Ambassador program really makes learning come alive."
Students learn about election rules and regulations in the classroom, and Seventy trains them to help voters with general voting information issues as well as how to use alternative and provisional ballots, access language assistance resources, and access resources for disabled and visually impaired voters.
“I didn't expect for this to be such an exciting experience, but I've learned so much. Even though I can't vote yet, I can still make a difference regarding the process. I'm pumped to go out on Election Day and support voters and pass on some of the things I've learned!” Crystal Collazo-Deleon, a junior at Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School.
According to a study conducted in 2011 by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, a nonprofit public policy, research and technical assistance organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., youth civic engagement leads to increased success in school and greater civic participation later in life along with a decrease in risky behavior.
The Election Ambassadors program and the Election Innovation Challenge have been made possible in part due to a generous grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation.
About the Committee of Seventy
The Committee of Seventy is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization who aims to protect and improve the voting process, encourage honest, capable people to seek public office, and help them make government work better; and engage citizens in the process of making important decisions about our future. In other words, Seventy advocates for better politics, better government, a better Philadelphia and a better Pennsylvania.