Prairie High School sophomore named to iCivics Equity in Civics Youth Fellowship
VANCOUVER — The last time we heard from Prairie High School sophomore and Running Start student Ellie Durgarian, she was helping launch the Youth Hand in Hand tutoring program. Now, she is going even bigger and partnering with other youth leaders across the nation to tackle the subject of civics.
Durgarian has been named a member of the iCivics Equity in Civics Youth Fellowship. The program is self-described as “… a select group of students from across the country to both help explore how civic education can become more relevant to all American youth and to build their own civic leadership skills.”
The process of selecting students to participate in the fellowship is nationwide and is currently broken up into three teams, Red, White and Blue. The students work on the program for one year, before completing their work. Each of the 22 students from multiple backgrounds was nominated by a teacher for the honor.
“A big part of this program is actually advocating for youth in the community,” Durgarian said. “That’s an issue that’s really close to my heart. I really love advocating for young people. I feel like, we have a lot to say, we just don’t always have the platform to say it.”
The program is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and is a component of the larger goal by iCivics to bring awareness and insight to better civics education for a diverse generation of high school students in the U.S. Fellowship members work with experts in civic engagement, advocacy, social and traditional media, and digital literacy.
The program is operating through virtual workshops at present, with teams meeting via Zoom calls. According to a release, by the end of the program, fellows are expected to launch a national student-led social media campaign, engage in group discussions on equity, civic education, civic engagement, produce written pieces and media projects on equity in civics, and collaborate on a virtual showcase on student voice.
“It’s really important that students learn about civics,” Durgarian said. “It’s how we maintain our democracy, as citizens here. So I really think working on getting a curriculum for that, and also requiring a civics class, you know, because right now, we just have requirements for history classes, but we need to go deeper.”
Durgarian explained her excitement to work on the data collection her team will conduct on how civics is taught and used across the country, as well as how to improve the number of students who get involved in civics and advocacy.
“I’ve learned what my role in democracy is, and I don’t really think a lot of people know that,” Durgarian said. “I mean, let’s look at this election that just happened. So many more people just voted. We made U.S. history. So I think the more people that know about their role, and the impact they can actually have on their communities and their country, the more empowered we’ll be as citizens to make a change in what we believe in.”
Durgarian and her peers will work with the CivXNow Coalition, which is a national cross-partisan coalition of over 100 organizations focused on improving the nation’s civic education. The group will also consult with the Educating for American Democracy initiative, which is also a nonpartisan effort.
“We’ve witnessed this year, and throughout history, the impact of student voice and student civic engagement,” Amber Coleman-Mortley, iCivics director of social engagement and fellowship program director, said in a release. “This program is designed to equip students with the skills they need to help them communicate their civic passions effectively.”
Durgarian and her team will culminate all they learn about civic engagement and education into one large social media campaign next year, which will go live for anyone to see. In addition to the campaign, the students will also write op-eds for their local and regional news outlets; a task for which Durgarin said she was very excited.
“I’ve always felt civics was a really important thing to learn about,” she said. “I was just so happy to see all these different young people feeling the same way and talking about it so eloquently. There’s a lot of young people that feel this way. And, you know, watch out, we’re coming to make a change.”
You can join the students when they launch their #CivicsForUS social media campaign on Monday, March 8, 2021.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor founded iCivics in 2009 to transform the field through innovative, free educational video games and lessons that teach students to be knowledgeable, curious, and engaged in civic life. Today, iCivics is the nation’s largest provider of civic education curriculum, with our resources used by over 100,000 educators and more than 6.25 million students each year nationwide. Visit www.icivics.org to learn more.
The iCivics Program contributed to this report.