WHY CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IS IMPORTANT:
Civic engagement is an essential element of community life. Civic involvement builds social capital and facilitates upward mobility for young Americans by preparing workers for employment, and strengthening economic resilience.
The American Dream implies no matter where you start in life, you have control over where you will end up, but opportunity inequities including unemployment, low wages, poverty, lack of affordable housing, and poor internet access suggests otherwise. Civic engagement empowers the public to address issues, change policies, and improve individuals’ quality of life and community wellbeing.
American youth who do not participate in civic engagement activities are considerably more likely to be disconnected from work and school. Schools across the county need support to provide students with engaging civic education curriculum, instruction, and opportunities to participate in civic activities and simulations of democratic processes and procedures.
Declining participation in civic engagement means fewer opportunities for state and local governments to understand the needs and concerns of their constituents. Local decision makers have a better sense of the public’s values, ideas, and recommendations when citizens are engaged. Community buy-in, support, and civil discussions lead to improved local agency decision-making and actions, with better impacts, outcomes, and faster project implementation.
Collaboration among schools, community colleges, universities, nonprofits, employers, and other community stakeholders can teach youth college and career readiness by aiding smoother transitions from school to work that provide youth with transferable skills and tools for self-sufficiency.
Voting is an important element of civic engagement, but there are many ways to get involved in Santa Clara County. Volunteering, supporting community organizations, registering to vote or helping someone register, participating in public meetings, and taking part in community conversations are all great ways to get involved.
FACTS AND FIGURES:
WHAT CIVIC LEADERS IN SANTA CLARA ARE SAYING:
“In this rapidly changing world, the need for civic engagement and civic identity is imperative. Involving youth and community members in planning and in making decisions that affect themselves and others will lead to positive social change here in Santa Clara County.”
-Debra Watkins, Founder and Executive Director, A Black Education Network
"Democracy thrives when citizens are engaged through participation, debate, and dialogue. The United States ranks 139 in voter participation out of 172 world democracies. Less than 50 percent of eligible voters, 18-24, voted in the last two presidential elections. In a recent survey, less than half of high school seniors viewed being actively involved in state and local issues as their responsibility. The 2014 CA Task Force on Civics Education stated that in order to do civics education well, K-12 classroom instruction must include government, history, law, economics, service learning projects, simulations in democratic processes, and robust student participation in student governance. To save our democracy from decline we must revitalize civics instruction, K-12, now more than ever."
-Joseph Di Salvo, Trustee, Santa Clara County Board of Education
“Our communities will benefit by improving civic engagement here in Santa Clara County. A new and tactical vision for civic engagement can help improve the coordination of public services, improve quality of life for community members, and aid in authentically embracing diversity in our county.”
-Susan Ellenberg, Senior Director of Community Development, The silicon valley organization
“Programs that encourage civic engagement activities have a positive impact on the whole community, and improve leadership and life skills. We must all work together to provide opportunities for residents to get engaged, regardless of their age. We owe it to the generations that follow us.”
-Steve Preminger, Special Advisor to County Executive, County of Santa Clara
“Civic education teaches important life and leadership skills. As parents, educators, and community members, we want our youth to be self-reliant, active, and contributing participants in our society. I continue to be amazed by the passion, imagination, and innovation I see from the students in our schools, and look forward to the development of a collaborative vision that offers opportunities for all to participate in civic activities here in Santa Clara.”
-Mary Ann Dewan, Ph.D., County Superintendent of Schools, Santa Clara County Office of Education
“Civic engagement can help break the cycle of poverty by bringing opportunity and hope to children, families and their communities. With the right vision and structure in place, we can invest in our schools and communities."
-Jodi Muirhead, Trustee, Santa Clara County School Boards Association
“It is encouraging to see collaboration from a variety of stakeholders in finding innovative, inclusive strategies to reach individuals who are left out of civic participation. Finding ways to integrate civic engagement into local community forums will allow constituents to have a more powerful role in building democracy.”
-Judge Brian Walsh, Trial Judge, Santa Clara County Superior Court