When it comes to understanding youth political engagement, it’s critical to look at both data and dynamics on the ground. As a result, to supplement CIRCLE’s primary and caucus analyses, we are also asking practitioners to provide reflections on their work with youth in a given state. These reflections come from different types of organizations—from news media, to schools, to nonprofits— since building sustainable opportunities for youth engagement requires engagement from multiple sectors using multiple strategies.
Below are reflections from a couple of organizations who worked to engage youth in the 2016 Nevada caucuses. While they reflect their perspectives and experiences, not necessarily those of CIRCLE, we want to highlight the important work being done to include young people in the decisions we make as a nation.
Nevada Media Alliance | Inspire Nevada | USC-Upstate
Nevada Media Alliance
As part of the ONA Challenge Fund grant, the Nevada Media Alliance coordinated two initiatives related to youth and the Nevada caucuses: Dance for Democracy and journalism student coverage. Noticiero Móvil hosted a mock caucus event called “Dance for Democracy”. We partnered with the national organization Voto Latino and hosted the event at a local Latin nightclub, Mambos. The goal was to create a fun and engaging way to teach young voters about the caucusing process in Nevada.
The students in J460 News Studio at the Reynolds School of Journalism organized and promoted the event in a three week period, and emceed the event.
This is the first of at least three events the students intend to host in the spring to create community dialogue around politics and civic engagement among young voters.
The Reynolds School of Journalism faculty organized an event called “RSJ Rocks the Caucus” to give students experience covering live political events. As part of that, two students published work in TeenVogue about their experiences caucusing for Bernie Sanders (One word: Chaos), and others contributed via the Nevada Media Alliance. The coverage will continue for the Republican caucus in Nevada.
Inspire Nevada is the newest nonpartisan civic engagement and leadership organization under Inspire US. In Las Vegas, we selected 37 Inspired Leaders from 6 high schools to be a part of our program. Our Inspired Leaders had their Leadership Academy on January 30th. Each of the 6 high schools has registered their peers through class presentations, assemblies, and voter registration drives during lunch. The goal for each school is to register 85% of their senior class. These Inspired Leaders are remarkable and are very dedicated to giving a voice to the youth. Our Inspired Leaders were informed about the caucuses through social media posts and newsletters. Through conversation and social media, our Inspired Leaders have been informing their peers about the caucuses.
The mission of Inspire US is to transform young leaders’ inspiration into action that improves their communities and strengthens our democracy. We work with high school juniors and seniors to have a voice in their communities through voter registration and civic action. Throughout the program, we work with students on voter registration drives, candidate forums to bridge the gap between the youth and legislators, and ways to improve the issues important to the youth.
Tashfia Hasan, member of the University of South Carolina Upstate community
As the fight for the Millennial vote rages on, candidates in the 2016 presidential race have been particularly careful to make appearances on college campuses. Recently, the University of South Carolina Upstate hosted Olympic medalist, Michelle Kwan, and former President Bill Clinton, on behalf of Secretary Hillary Clinton, as well as prominent social activist, Dr. Cornel West, on behalf of Senator Bernie Sanders. Each guest spoke briefly about their own journeys and how they found themselves becoming so invested in this particularly heated presidential race.
These prominent speakers captivated students by personalizing the events as much as they were able. By appealing to students by discussing each candidate’s views on resolving the growing issue of student loan debt, each speaker was able to really engage the crowd. Kwan, President Clinton, and Dr. West spoke to the candidates’ views as they related to advocating for groups such as women, people of color, and students; access to quality healthcare; and other hot button issues. A theme that was consistent between the three events, regardless of differences in Clinton’s and Sanders’ platforms, is the need to continue the momentum the speakers believe that President Barack Obama’s presidency has created.