Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s America Initiative: Grades Six through University
Distinguished sponsors to date include The Boston Globe and the Knight Foundation.
Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s America Initiative [501(c)(3) grew out of two questions: (1) Whether our children and those who follow will perpetuate the divisions in our country today that are inflamed by disinformation and conspiracy theories, distrust of the press, and attempts to repress voting, privacy and curriculum freedoms, amongst others and (2) What can our Initiative do to empower young people to defuse those divisions while encouraging civil discourse and strengthening democratic processes.
The Initiative focuses on energizing and engaging young people in America including those from historically marginalized communities, to participate in the democratic process on behalf of their guaranteed rights and freedoms.
Several factors underscore the urgency of the Initiative’s implementation: (1) The unevenness of the breadth and depth of civics education in the U.S. as detailed in The Bill of Obligations by Richard Haass, who concludes “There is a good deal of talk about the budget deficit. It may be that our civics deficit is of even greater consequence;” (2) Students today are a passive audience for whom even civic learning is on “the margins of their young school experience [Brookings] and who, if ignored, will simply perpetuate the current divisions in our society;”and (3) A December 2021 poll released by the Harvard University Kennedy School's Institute of Politics found that 52% of young people in the U.S. believe that the country's democracy is either "in trouble" or "a failed democracy;” only 7% said that democracy in the United States is “healthy.”
The Initiative is designed to overcome those factors by motivating young people of all backgrounds and beliefs - whether alienated, discouraged, disinterested, imprinted by disinformation, or involved in the democratic process, etc. - to reflect upon (1) the everyday freedoms afforded them by the Constitution and Bill of Rights and how their lives would be affected if those freedoms were taken away from them; (2) how their participation as an open-minded and informed citizen can defend and preserve those freedoms; and (3) how contributing to public dialogue and the shaping of culture and policy will create a democracy reflecting their rights and freedoms.
The Initiative will invite students, teachers and administrators to consider “why democracy matters” in a series of independently juried competitions offering substantial monetary awards. Three competitions [ essays for students; innovative lesson plans for teachers; and pioneering curriculum for administrators ] will run concurrently so that teacher and administrator participation reinforces that of students. A nationwide PR campaign is designed to maximize submissions as well as raise top-of-mind awareness of the need for civics education in our country.
Initiative awards, which make up more than half our non-profit’s annual budget, range from $25,000 (first place, university), $20,000 (first place, grades 9-12) and $15,000 (first place, grades 6-8) with commensurate monetary awards for second and third place winners in each of the three categories.
|Categories||1st Place||2nd Place||3rd place|
|University [Undergraduate] / College||$25,000||$20,000||$15,000|
Young people can save our democracy! When young people are motivated on an issue, they make a difference. We need them now to mobilize on behalf of Democracy and the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Mary Kay Office Lazarus, PhD
Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s America Initiative 501(c)(3)