MAY 12, 2021
“The Youth Ambassador Program has allowed me to meet members of my community I would have never met before. By connecting over platforms (like iCivics) which encourage conversations around our civic duty, I have been exposed to new perspectives on issues relevant to my community. As a young adult living in this tumultuous time period, I feel hopeful about creating social change when I see other motivated and passionate adults and peers around me!” - Tasneem Ghadiali, 9th grade
iCivics and MCCPA Youth Ambassadors
Samantha Ruthazer, volunteer Director of Development at the Massachusetts Creating Community Power Association (MCCPA), organized a pilot Youth Ambassador leadership and civic education program where Boston-area young adults learn from community leaders and contribute to MCCPA projects and programs. Young adults in this program build their leadership skills through education and action surrounding increased civic engagement. As the vision for this program states: By accessing education and connections with local leaders, participants in the youth ambassador program will increase their understanding of how to increase their civic engagement and will partake in action that supports community growth. The Youth as Civic Experts Network from iCivics, teens from across the country, engage in virtual programming that closely models what our program aims to become; education and action that engages our leaders and creates change.
Ruthazer connected with Amber Coleman-Mortley, Director of Social Engagement at iCivics, and arranged a meeting for the iCivics “Youth as Civic Experts” and MCCPA’s Youth Ambassadors to meet. At the heart of each program is the goal to connect, to create spaces that elevate youth voices, and to encourage active civic participation amongst young people. What was truly remarkable in the meeting of the two groups were the reflections on the action and growth they have experienced; students expressed their appreciation for a program and peers that pushed them to engage in further learning outside of their standard coursework, especially where civics curriculum has decreased or disappeared from the required academic curriculum in many states and schools.
Using iCivics with Our Community
In an effort to bring fun and interactive methods for engaging with this work, MCCPA found that iCivics’ game-based learning approach was creative and effective. Whilst still in a pandemic, MCCPA has now hosted two virtual game nights using the iCivics platform. Youth Ambassadors facilitated groups of their peers and adult learners from across the Boston area, utilizing iCivics as an inclusive way to reach a variety of types of learners. Playing LawCraft, for example, has been a fan-favorite, and the feedback from the youth program and MCCPA community members has been exclusively positive. In small Zoom breakout rooms, players can discuss each decision as they play the game, while connecting the issues to Boston and thinking about what they would like their lawmakers to do in similar situations.
MCCPA, the Massachusetts Creating Community Power Association, was founded in June of 2020 as the United States was in a state of distress, with a global pandemic and civic unrest after the murder of George Floyd. Union Capital Boston members were interested in using the community they had cultivated to create action, and after a few months of Virtual Network Nights and meetings to heal collectively, MCCPA was born.
MCCPA founding members Thomas Ruffen, Samantha Ruthazer, and Danielle Kalette recognized that there are hundreds of thousands of citizens not registered to vote, who do not exercise their right to vote, or are misunderstood about their civil rights and the way the American democratic system is set up. Their mission in creating this organization was to educate our community and find ways to prioritize marginalized identities, sharing power and voice, and using civic engagement as the mode of fighting racism and promoting racial justice in Boston and beyond.
MCCPA is a developing program, and we hope to continue utilizing iCivics programming and collaborating with organizations in the Massachusetts area. We do not want to recreate the wheel, and by building on the strengths and offering of existing programs, we are truly creating our power, together.
Written By Samantha Ruthazer
Samantha is a founding member of MCCPA. Follow MCCPA on Twitter at @MCCPA20.