We have been thinking a lot about our young people. From the civic engagement of the Parkland students on the heels of tragedy to the recent midterm elections that heralded the highest turnout of 18 to 29-year old voters in 25 years at 31 percent, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, theirs are voices increasingly working to be heard across the country.
We are notably young here in California, home to an estimated 13.5 million residents under the age of 25—a number higher than the total population of 46 other states—who will play an increasingly significant role in shaping the economic, social, and political issues that affect us all as a state and nation in the coming years. We know that young people have a lot on their minds. How do they make sense of the world around them? Where do they get their information, who do they trust, what do they want to tell us about what it means to be a young person in California?
These questions were a powerful catalyst for California Humanities to launch a new statewide initiative focusing on the lives and experiences of young Californians. CA 2020: Youth Perspective and the Future of California is designed to engage a broad and representative cross-section of young people to consider the issues facing the state, as well as the futures they envision for themselves and their communities. There are four youth-focused programs currently underway:
- Democracy and the Informed Citizen
In partnership with four community colleges (Foothill/DeAnza Community Colleges, Shasta Community College, San Diego Community College District, and Bakersfield College), we are highlighting the vital connections between democracy and journalism through public events with Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Sonia Nazario, along with associated on-campus activities with students. Funding comes in part from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Democracy and the informed Citizen Initiative, in partnership with the Pulitzer Prizes, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils. There will be a culminating Youth Media Summit with student and faculty representatives from each college, taking place on December 6 and 7 in Oakland.
- Youth Documentary Series
This original series of short video documentary portraits will highlight the role and power of California’s youth in shaping our state’s future by sharing a diverse range of young Californians’ stories. These dynamic videos will be completed in 2019 and presented with public partners, including libraries, community colleges, high schools, and film festivals.
- HFA Youth Voices
The Humanities for All grant program supports locally-initiated public humanities projects. The new Youth Voices strand of the grant program aims to reach and engage with California’s youth. Projects that involve youth as primary program participants or audiences and address topics of interest to them are given special consideration. An example of one that we have supported this year is a series of hands-on workshops that give youth the opportunity to learn and share traditional basket weaving techniques from tribal elders in Oroville.
- California Documentary Project NextGen
This new grant program that supports short documentary films and podcasts by emerging media-makers age 18 and under that shed light from the youth perspective on not only the problems we face, but also on the solutions that youth are proposing and the futures they envision. The first grants to youth media organizations will be announced by the end of 2018.
We are proud of many other California Humanities accomplishments this year—including over $1 million in grants that we made across California, a total that has continued to increase over the past several years—and we know that by making humanities experiences and stories available to young people, we help enhance their learning and empathy and connection to the larger world community.
The future looks bright in their hands.
As we increase our youth-focused offerings and expand programs to amplify their voices, we need your financial support. Please consider making a gift today.