Approximately 60 middle and high school students from Central Texas took part in a Civics Day event at the Texas Capitol in December. The event capped a fall semester of action–based civics education provided by the nonpartisan nonprofit Generation Citizen. Throughout the school year, the students work with volunteer “democracy coaches” from UT Austin and St. Edwards University to develop policy change projects, which they present to volunteer judges for critique.
“These students took a hot–button national issue and made it local and relevant to them,” says Meredith Norris, Central Texas Site Director for Generation Citizen. Those issues include police–community relations, affordable housing, dropout prevention and more.
Musician SaulPaul opened the event with a motivational speech and performance. “I want to encourage you, I want to entertain you, I want to inspire you,” he told the crowd. “I want you to focus, not just today but in general. That’s the potential you have in you.” He then created an improvised hip–hop song using words offered by audience members and later performed his hit song “Rise,” featuring the young local singer Alexia Finney.
“Civics is not taught to the extent that it used to be,” says Scott Warren, CEO of Generation Citizen. “What we’re trying to do is bring civics back to the classroom and make it action–oriented and relevant.” Generation Citizen was founded in 2010 in Rhode Island and expanded into Central Texas in 2016.