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Nonprofit group takes message of active citizenship to Boston youth

Published: Monday, February 13, 2012

Updated: Monday, February 13, 2012 07:02

Daniels implemented the curriculum in a classroom of eighth−graders.

"For eighth−graders, specifically, the action plans they picked weren't huge changes in their community," she said. "But for them, what's really important is to know that they can have a voice and there are people they can contact, and to give them the skills [they need], like teamwork−building and writing skills."

At Tufts, Jumbos are encouraged to be active citizens, as well as to voice their opinions openly. Generation Citizen presents a new challenge, however, in directing that perspective to students in low−income schools who may not have had the same experiences that current Tufts students had when they were younger.

"Most Tufts students know we have some sort of power to change things," Kroetch said. "But its not just the mentors going out and being active citizens, it's creating a new generation of students that are also learning how to be active citizens and how to participate, making sure that the Civic Engagement Gap shrinks."

According to Levine, the age that GC targets — secondary school students — is critical. If the students are not reached now, the Civic Engagement Gap will remain great and the students may not learn that they should be involved in the democratic process, he said.

"It's really a formative age. We know that if you are not engaged when you're an adolescent, the chances you're going to be engaged later are much lower," Levine said. "So it's really the point where huge gaps in participation open up, and they're very hard to close."

GC mentors realize that this is the case, and commit themselves to a semester teaching students who often approach their project pessimistically, according to Blakesley, doubtful that they can actually make a difference. Ultimately, however, as the action parts of the curriculum emerge, the students begin to feel engaged and have a desire to participate, Blakesley said.

"Tufts is very into making change in the world," Daniels said. "We start with young kids so that they can have a voice early on and get to college to do the kind of things that Tufts students do."

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