During Spring Quarter 2012, twelve University of Washington undergraduate students went into local middle and high schools and community centers to run the Becoming Citizens civic voice curriculum. The interns worked at Mercer Middle School, West Seattle High School, New Holly Community Center, and Rainier Vista Neighborhood House.
In addition to weekly class sessions at the University of Washington, during which the interns were trained to work with young people and discussed the latest scholarship on youth political engagement, the interns met with their students once a week at the school or community center that they were assigned to. On site, the interns ran a hands-on, community-issue curriculum that focuses on the use of digital media to help teens develop civic engagement skills and an effective political voice. The Metrocenter YMCA created the curriculum based on the academic input provided by researchers of the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement (CCCE). The two organizations also worked closely together to implement the Becoming Citizens internship program.
The regional director for education, employment & technology programs at the Metrocenter YMCA, Chris Tugwell, describes the goal of the program: “Through this program we are encouraging young people, college aged and younger, to engage in online environments and share their voice using all mediums. Our hope is that young people leave this program with the skills that are necessary to act in their communities.”
Throughout the sessions at the schools and community centers, the interns assisted their students in creating short videos about an issue they care about. Becoming Citizens intern Matthew Tremble recounts: “The positive influence that we as interns had on the kids was visible on a session-by-session basis; by keeping them out of trouble and getting them involved in their community, we saw academic and social growth in nearly every one of the kids.” Among the issues the students chose to produce videos about, were community and youth violence, the environment, and healthy living. At the end of the program, the videos that the students created with the help of the Becoming Citizens interns were posted on Puget Sound Off, a digital youth commons to connect teens and help them take action on events and issues that matter in their communities. Finally, the civic voice curriculum at the heart of the Becoming Citizens internship program is nominated for this year’s MetLife Afterschool Innovator Awards. The selection committee nominated the curriculum for the final round out of more than 300 after-school programs serving middle school youth.