We work with schools across the country to help teachers and administrators register eligible youth to vote.
By: Janet Hernandez, Senior Project Manager, Civic Engagement, UnidosUS
The energy was high in Mr. Hernandez’s civics and government class at Houston Gateway Academy as the teacher begin to lead his students in a new lesson from the UnidosUS High School Democracy Project. On this day, the class focused on the requirements for and the importance of voting in local, state, and national elections.
The High School Democracy Project works with schools across the country to help prepare teachers and administrators to register eligible youth to vote. UnidosUS believes it is vital to make voter education, awareness, and registration an integral part of every high school senior’s experience.
Back in the classroom, Mr. Hernandez presented his students with statistics about voter turnout on November 7, 2017 in Harris County, Texas where their school is located. Public data shows that only 6.72% of registered voters—the equivalent of 150,174 out of 2,233,533 people—turned out at the polls for a statewide election held that day.
After asking questions and discussing the election and the low turnout, many of the students quickly realized the importance of making their voices heard and being part of the decision-making that affects them and everyone else in their county.
Mr. Hernandez asked the students to consider if people’s voices could be represented if they didn’t vote. In that moment, the students began to understand the meaning of representative democracy and their hands started to go up as they said “I want to register to vote!”
The enthusiasm demonstrated by the students about having the opportunity to vote led Mr. Hernandez to present the qualifications for registering. Many of students then realized, for the first time, that they were eligible to register to vote.
“I WANT TO BE THE VOICE FOR THOSE WHO CAN’T VOTE”
Educational moments like students excitedly learning about voting and civic participation is at the core of the Democracy Curriculum. Created last year by UnidosUS, the High School Democracy Project strives to increase voter participation among youth.
According to the last census data, only 16% of young adults ages 18-24 reported voting in the 2014 mid-term election. These numbers represent the lowest youth participation rate since 1972.
But the curriculum’s lessons are making a difference. Nineteen of the students who participated in Mr. Hernandez’s class registered to vote with the guidance of a trained deputy registrar who was on hand to assist.
For one of these young newly minted registered voter, electing officials who are proponents of a positive resolution for DACA students is priority. “I decided to register to vote today because I want to be the voice for those who can’t vote,” said the student.
COMMITTED TO EDUCATING AND DEVELOPING ACTIVE CITIZENS
Houston Gateway Academy is an Affiliate of UnidosUS. Houston Gateway believes for their scholars to succeed in school, college, and throughout their life, they must devote quality time to the pursuit of academic knowledge and the life skills they will need to conquer obstacles and achieve their goals. It is the mission of Houston Gateway Academy to graduate individuals who are prepared for their academic and professional challenges while being active citizens in their communities.
UnidosUS will continue to work with schools and organizations to support those teachers educating students about civic participation and the importance of making their voices heard by registering to vote and casting their ballots in local, state, and national elections.
To learn more about the High School Democracy Project and how you can get involved, visit the program’s website.