“An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” – Thomas Jefferson
We’ve all seen the alarming statistics about youth disengagement in the political process that are often cited by the national media. For example, in the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, youth voter turnout was among the lowest in the world, when 50% of eligible young people chose not to cast a vote. John Hancock Financial is working to change that narrative by providing critical civic education tools to young people.
This summer, as part of John Hancock’s MLK Summer Scholars program 650 Boston-area teens were given access to EverFi’s online course, Commons: Digital Town Square, in addition to meaningful work experience opportunities at almost 80 non-profit organizations throughout the city. The web-based curriculum provided scholars with the opportunity to develop and utilize critical civic skills. Scholars finished their Commons experience by writing an op-ed about a political topic of their choice.
According to a survey taken after completing the course, scholars were 40% more likely to write letters to a newspaper about social or community concerns than they were before taking the course and 31% more scholars agreed with the statement that “I feel confident in my ability to explain to another person how the United States Government functions”.
With the rise of the digital age, civic participation increasingly happens online. Critical functions such as voter registration, tax returns, political campaigns, advocacy and peer-to-peer communication have moved into the digital space. In today’s networked society, digital literacy has become an indispensable part of civic empowerment. The MLK Summer Scholars program addresses this reality by marrying civic engagement education with an engaging digital learning experience.
On September 20th, John Hancock celebrated youth civic engagement by publishing an ‘advertorial’ spread in the Boston Globe with an op-ed authored by MLK Summer Scholar, Chris Cadogan, winner of the op-ed competition for MLK Summer Scholars to enter after completing the Commons course. The impressive final entries for the competition included op-ed’s about Gun Violence, Environmental Philanthropy, Gentrification, Religious Freedom, and more. Read Chris’s op-ed about LGBTQ+ youth here.