Mikva Challenge’s mission is to develop the next generation of civic leaders, activists and policymakers by giving young people opportunities to participate in the democratic process, shape policy and tangibly improve their communities. Since 1998, Mikva Challenge has become a leader in innovative and meaningful civic engagement programs and has forged successful partnerships with schools and local government offices.
Mikva’s programs teach Chicago area high school youth how to navigate the democratic process, become active voters and engaged citizens, and set the groundwork for lasting change by strategically tackling problems in their schools and communities. Mikva youth participate in programs that focus on three areas of civic engagement:
Youth Policy-Making: Through school and city-based youth policy councils, Mikva seeks to create structures within city government that incorporate youth input in policymaking and budget deliberations; connect a broad base of youth to adult decision makers via the youth councils; positively affect policy; and develop a cadre of strong youth leaders committed to public service and activism.
Classroom Activism: The Issues to Action program and the Democracy in Action course allow students to explore their communities from an asset-based perspective. The program teaches them to identify and research issues that are important to them and their community, analyze power, and develop an action plan.
Electoral Participation: This category of programs allows youth to play an active role in campaign work, voter registration and school-wide mock elections, or serve as election judges in polling places around the City on election days. Another program in this category, The Summer Government and Leadership Institute, gives teens the opportunity to intern with elected state, local and federal officials.
The McCormick Foundation has been funding Mikva programs since 2003. The most recent grant from the Civics Program, helped launch the Center for Action Civics (CFAC). CFAC provides Mikva with a venue to replicate its core curricula, train new teachers, develop new action civics models and curriculum, and promote the philosophy and practice of action civics locally and nationally.
Mikva Challenge is a founding member of the National Action Civics Collaborative (NACC), a group of action civics practitioners and researchers from around the country, and was a lead organizer of NACC’s first annual “Power of Action Civics Symposium” in Chicago in June 2011.