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My Seventh Newsletter

 

Inauguration Day is my birthday. Since the mid-l930s and except when it falls on a Sunday, every President is inaugurated on January 20th. (Amendment XX [1933], Section 1 to the US Constitution, says "The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January ... and the terms of their successors shall then begin." And BTW, the Library of Congress has several fascinating photos and films of other inaugurations.

Thus every four years, I see what gift our country is bringing me. Perhaps some of my political pragmatism comes from knowing that this is one birthday present I cannot return and I just have to deal with it.

But there IS something that I want this birthday: A strong commitment from all of us to play an active role in civic and political engagement. The engagement need not be on a large scale as we all look into ourselves to do what we can do. But if we do act with the clear knowledge that what gets done by service or activism is done with a clear vision of change, then change will happen.

For those new to this newsletter, I am the author of a new book, TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD, an issue-oriented book for young Americans on civic and political activism. Engagement is integral to our democracy and soon-to-be and new voters - citizens and residents already - definitely have the voice, the power, the intelligence, the sense of justice, passion and energy to give the benefit of their participation right now! This newsletter and my website, http://www.teenpowerpolitics.com, are intended to provide an update on current issues and events affecting all of us along with resources for change.

Here is one of my favorite quotes (included in TEEN POWER POLITICS): "Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. Senator Robert F. Kennedy (l925l968), "Day of Affirmation" Address, University of Capetown, South Africa, June 6, 1966

An inspiration mid-90's for TEEN POWER POLITICS was Jean Bethke Elshtain's book, DEMOCRACY ON TRIAL. The concerns for the revitalization of our citizen involvement were strong then. They are more critical now. I recommend both Prof. Elshtain's book and Robert Putnam's current one, BOWLING ALONE. Crying out the fact that we do less and less in groups, whether it be community engagement or even our religious, work and social activities, solutions and resolutions are suggested so that we can come together again. We need this sense of understanding, of bridging cultural, political, racial and any other barriers; and of coalition and compromise. Let us all try. The word of this moment: "social capital." In an attempt to write shorter and more focused newsletters, I want to stay primarily with my theme of engagement and will highlight here on one of the best organizations for youth involvement, several youth activism stories and several opportunities for youth involvement. We are at the beginning of a new millennium, a new power structure in Washington and what can be a time of new movement for ourselves. Let's all take advantage of the incredible resources around and within ourselves and see what we can do!


HERE'S WHAT WE'LL TALK ABOUT IN THIS NEWSLETTER:

A. Youth Service America

B. Youth In Action: New youth activism stories

C. Youth Newspapers

D. Several civic education/teen awards and contests E. New Stuff on TPP!


A. YOUTH SERVICE AMERICA - One of the best ways to get involved.

More than the soup kitchen... "More than ever, getting America's young people engaged in the life of their communities is an essential and important mission. Youth Service America is committed to making that vision a reality -- working with hundreds of great organizations across our country." Steve Culbertson, Chief Executive Officer, Youth Service America

Youth Service America is a national organization that actively matches volunteers with organizations that meet critical community needs. It's companion site, SERVEnet www.servenet.org is a network that enables you to exchange service ideas and stories, communicate with other volunteers in your community, and stay informed of national and community service news.

From the site:

"Did you know that.....

*63% of kids age 9-14 say it is important to have a job where you help people.

*The number of students involved in formal service opportunities has increased from 900,000 to 12,600,000 in the last fifteen years. In one year, 59% of kids volunteer, giving a total of 2.5 billion hours to their communities.

*Youth who volunteer just one hour a week are 50% less likely to abuse drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and engage in other destructive behavior. They also do better in school."

I spoke with Steve Culbertson just the other day and his message is very clear. The social capital, the asset that youth represents today, is not just the hope of tomorrow but it is the very real contribution to the concerns of today.

When we volunteer, we not only serve others but do ourselves a great service as we experience the power we have to effect change. This power can be exercised all the way from one's own home to the highest reaches of government and the sooner we learn how to exercise it, the more effective is each one of us. The YSA website is chock full of programs. YSA's ServiceVote 2000 campaign effectively made the connection for many youth this past year between service and the power of political involvement and I look forward to it continuing during the years to come. Check out their affiliates and SERVEnet for the powerful network of organizations committed to making service the common experience and expectation of all young Americans.

BUT.... best of all, get involved with YSA's National Youth Service Day on April 20-21, 2001!!!!

Fast approaching, National Youth Service Day celebrates the power of youth activism and service, highlighting the amazing things that youth can do through their own creativity, inventiveness and persistence; their great contribution as resources to aid in local, national and global concerns and to recruit the next generation of volunteers.

Parade Magazine's April 13th cover article will be on National Youth Service Day and you will want to be involved. The YSA website has downloadable curriculum materials for K-6, 7-12 and community-based organizations at www.ysa.org (or email Karen Larson) and you can use SERVEnet, to contact organizations to help you plan projects not only for this day but for all time. The YSA list of project suggestions for their 2000 NYSD day is extensive and I recommend you visit it.

It's time to start planning now!


B. Keeping in Touch with Issues - Youth Newspapers

Contribute, read, and distribute youth newspapers and 'zines. Here is service in the form of idea dissemination and one of the best ways to give and get news from your peers. Along with LA Youth, mentioned in the last newsletter, here are several more magazines on the Internet by and for youth.

1. Wiretap wiretapmag whose articles I've cited here before. Wiretap writes original stories and excerpts many other ones of interest to youth, as well as links to other youth media.

2. Yo! Youth Outlook. A strong youth online and hard copy magazine, a project of the Pacific News Service. Yo! is based in the San Francisco Bay Area but its stories are syndicated nationwide.

3. Harlem Live, an online zine "Written, Created, Presented, Represented ... by teens in Harlem and throughout New York City."

4. Independent Media Center When I was working with the Youth Task Force at this August's Shadow Conventions during the DNC LA convention, the fourth floor of the building was filled with young journalists working with IMC. It is grassroots, on the scene journalism, filtered through collectives set up around the world and something anyone interested in direct reporting should investigate in terms both of contribution and information. Check out grassroots coverage of the inauguration.

5. Yahoo's listing of various kid and teen magazines.

Also check out my website "Resources" for other teen journalism and debate opportunities.


C. YOUTH IN ACTION

1. Want to hear others speak about what they are doing for civic engagement? A great forum is at ChickClick's "My Cause" section of their Society+Politics channel. There you can also tell ChickClick and their users about your own activities.

2. Since we're talking newspapers, read about the Paw Print Express, as reported in Tuesday's Dallas Morning News.

When the local newspaper for Hill County, TX shut down, the Itasca High school stepped in and now is THE news for the whole town, providing a needed service to the town's citizens and great experience for the student jounalists who produce it.


D. AWARDS AND CONTESTS

Another wonderful way to be involved. Contribute an essay, a photo a story to a competition and have your work read, seen and celebrated.

1. The American Bar Association Division of Public Education conducts an annual "Images of Freedom" student photography competition. Specifics are on their website.

"As part of our Law Day program [May 1st, 2001] we ask students across the country to enter the Images of Freedom student photography competition by sending us original photographs depicting this year's theme ... 'Celebrate Your Freedom - Protecting the Best Interests of Our Children.'The prizes:

* 1st place--$1,000 U.S. savings bond and special plaque

* 2nd place--The World Book Encyclopedia with CD-Rom

* 3rd place--$100 U.S. savings bond and student dictionary

All winners, including honorable mentions, will also receive Law Day gift packs and special certificates. Winning photos will be displayed nationwide, in children's museums, and on the ABA Division for Public Education's website."

2. The Skirball Institute of American Values www.skirballinstitute.org runs an annual non-sectarian essay competition for high school students with $20,000 in prizes. Their 2001 theme: "What do U.S. history and literature teach us about the role of religion in everyday life?" Let your teachers and principals know about this contest and read about last year's winners.

3. Youth Service America, profiled above, provides listings of various service awards for youth, adults and groups on SERVEnet.


E. ON TPP

Well, Booklist and School Library Journal, both well-respected school and library publications, just reviewed TPP and said great things about it in their December and January issues respectively, especially that it filled a niche between profiling all the wonderful activists interviewed for the book and giving all of you a sense of the history and substance of American politics. Made me feel good!

I have been getting calls from reporters and other media to talk about youth issues and activism and I am always happy to talk about what I believe is the strength and creativity of teens and young voters.


Check out TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD and its companion website, www.teenpowerpolitics.com. (The website will finally be updated by the writing of the next newsletter!) TPP was written as a guide and a tool for activism. If ever that tool was needed, it is now. Again, please let me know of a concern or activity you would like me to tell others about. And send this on to others and suggest that they e-mail me if they would like to be added to this list (or if they wish to be removed). Thanks for taking the time to read this! If you received this twice, please let me know as I refine my list. Sara Jane Boyers sjboyers@teenpowerpolitics.com http://www.teenpowerpolitics.com TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD (c) 2001 Sara Jane Boyers