Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC) youth leaders have built a powerful culture of youth civic engagement over the past 15 years. In a region known for lawsuits and recalls of corrupt political officials, many youth have dropped out of civic life. Data from the Current Population Survey shows that in the 2018 general election, only 34% of 18 to 24 year-olds reported voting. The results were similar for the 2016 presidential election, at 44%. Convinced that this crisis of civic disengagement reinforces entrenched political regimes in the region, ICUC youth have registered and turned out thousands of new youth voters across the Inland Region and engaged youth leaders with their school boards, city councils and state assembly.
Now, with support of a state grant to increase youth civic engagement in the region, ICUC youth launched a region-wide youth voter engagement campaign entitled, “Be the G.O.A.T. – Cast Your Vote”. The campaign is poised to register thousands of youth before the November election and turn these voters out to vote in support of young peoples’ priorities. Working with local school districts and the county of Riverside and San Bernardino Registrar of Voters, youth introduced policy recommendations to create the culture they seek on their school campuses.
On September 15th, 2020 the San Bernardino City Unified School District board unanimously passed the “Student Voter Registration” policy, the first of its kind in the region, which was brought to the school district by ICUC youth with support from school board members who understand young people’s role in actively creating an environment in which democracy thrives. This was made possible with the leadership of the SBCUSD’s board president Gwen Rodgers and the policy subcommittee which includes Abigail Medina, Dr. Barbara Flores, Dr. Margaret Hill and Dr. Scott Wyatt.
After passing the resolution, Dr. Flores shared, “I want to commend the ICUC Youth and Leadership for their relentless pursuit, grassroots advocacy and resolved determination to participate in the Student Voter Registration Policy process and see it approved at the September 15th SBCUSD School Board Meeting!”
Youth leaders are now organizing with district administrators to implement the policy throughout the San Bernardino High Schools to ensure all eligible students have the opportunity to register to vote before November’s election. The “Student Voter Registration” policy provides administrative guidelines around voter education, voter registration, and making high schools polling locations during elections.
In Riverside and Coachella Valley Unified School Districts ICUC youth leaders are pressing for similar resolutions that pave the way to increase voter registration and the voting rights of youth.
“Educating our youth in civic engagement is vital to the successful future of our democracy and our communities. Our youth have proven over and over that they are willing to work for a better tomorrow and a better world. It is essential that they learn how to use their voices to impact change around them,” said Assemblymember Reyes. “I am proud to have brought funding to ICUC to continue engaging our youth in civic engagement.”