Technically speaking, ‘echo boomers’ may shift Chicago voting

22 Sep

By Kelli Heinz

Will the echo boomers, who made their presence felt two years ago in the Presidential outcome, change the outcome of the Illinois general elections in November? The Chicago-based, non-partisan Mikva Challenge is encouraging local high school students to do exactly that by taking a role in civic leadership.

As the genetic offspring of the baby boomers, the echo boomers consist of roughly one third of the U.S. population. After the success of President Barack Obama’s social media campaign, it is no surprise that this segment of the voting population, known for their use of instant communication technologies, have become strong players in campaign outcomes.

“We’re looking to change policy around technology and education,” said Jessica Gingold, Mikva’s Education Council program coordinator. “They’re the ones who are experts in using technology and have experienced what using technology has done for their lives.”

The Mikva Challenge, started by former Federal Judge Abner Mikva and his wife, Zoe, assists high school students in getting involved with current political campaigns and policymaking. As active participants, students receive hands-on experience with leadership and professional skills while working on assigned campaigns or youth councils.

As social media has also become the designated active platform for spreading information and news at a rapid pace, Mikva students have been utilizing it as a means to have a public voice, especially when it comes to education.

A group of Mikva Challenge teen leaders “spent the summer interviewing Chicago teachers, administrators and students to get suggestions about how digital media can be better used in Chicago schools to improve teaching and learning,” Ben Wolff reports at spotlight.macfound.org.

On Sep. 15, the Mikva Challenge Education Council met with the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Ron Huberman, to discuss their policy recommendations to incorporate 21st century technology into Chicago high school classrooms.

Mikva Challenge students are also looking at candidates for the November elections to speak out about the changes they could provide for Chicago public schools. When asked on the Mikva Challenge facebook page, “If you could ask the candidates for Governor of Illinois one question, what would it be?”, Jill Bass commented, “Is he/she committed to public education? If yes, why is Illinois so abysmal in its funding of it?”

Brenan Smith-Evans, associate director for the Mikva Challenge, stresses how the Mikva Challenge electoral participation programs “ignites students interest in politics and civic engagement as well as provides a deep sense of how the system works.” “This is crucial considering the impact the youth can have on the political platform.”

Through the Student Judge Project, over 2,500 high school juniors and seniors from over 50 schools learn about the voting process by serving as election judges and helping to run an actual polling place on Election Day. Student judges also encourage their peers to vote through the New Voter Initiative, according to Mikva’s web site.

Getting the echo generation informed and involved has been a campaign strategy for many of the candidates running in the November elections. Their knowledge of social media networks has enhanced the way politicians are addressing the public via Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

The Mikva Challenge also hosts a political forum for students to discuss issues with current candidates for the November elections. For more information about the Mikva Challenge or candidate forum, visit www.mikvachallenge.org.

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