Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee Highlights Local Youth Engagement Programs Taking Place During the Democratic National Convention

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – The Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee for the Democratic National Convention today introduced two program partnerships facilitated by the Host Committee that create unique opportunities for local Philadelphia young people to be involved in the activities surrounding the Convention. The Host Committee is partnering with WHYY, KYW Newsradio, the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement, and the Philadelphia School District’s education channel (PSTV) to create a Youth News Team. This program is funded jointly by The Philadelphia Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Host Committee is also partnering with the Philadelphia Youth Network and the Committee of Seventy to create a Civic Youth Experience, offering young people an opportunity to be trained as Election Ambassadors and experience the Committee of Seventy’s “Voices of Voting” performance, a short play written and directed by award-winning Philadelphia artistic director David Bradley, which will take place during the Convention at Science Leadership Academy. 

The Host Committee facilitated these new partnerships and developed the programs with each partner to engage Philadelphia young people as part of its commitment to use the occasion of the Convention as an opportunity to make a lasting, positive impact on the Philadelphia community.

“The Host Committee is committed to having a lasting impact on the Philadelphia community, and providing programs that support the growth and development of our local youth is an important component of that commitment,” said former Pennsylvania governor and Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee Chair Ed Rendell. “These programs will provide Philadelphia young people with new skills, knowledge and experiences from the Convention that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I hope the participants enjoy the projects they are involved in, and I look forward to seeing the great work that comes out of these programs.”

“We make Philadelphia a stronger city when we provide opportunities for young people to develop real skills and knowledge that will help them develop their careers and be active members of their communities,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “These youth engagement programs orchestrated by the Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee provide the young residents of our city with a unique opportunity to both get involved during the Convention and take on a leadership role within their community.”

Youth News Team

The Youth News Team is a collaborative project that will offer 25 Philadelphia high school and middle school students interested in journalism with an opportunity to cover the Democratic National Convention. In addition to the program’s core partners, the Youth News Team will also work with local media partners to provide mentorship and publish the students’ original Convention content.

For the high school program, four groups of five students each (20 students total) will participate in a two-week program. It will include a journalism boot camp to learn media and journalism skills and then, during Convention Week, the students will cover Convention activities with the help of trained teachers and participating professional journalists. The students will work together to cover Convention events and activities, produce their own stories, receive hands-on training in journalism, production and convention politics from WHYY and PSTV. They will be guided by the following journalists through mentorship partnerships with their respective media outlets: Jared Brey from Philadelphia Magazine; Kristen Johanson from KYW; Sam Newhouse from Metro; George Spencer from NBC10; and Eric Walter from WHYY.

For the middle school program, five middle school students, from different Philadelphia middle schools, will learn how to create media stories in written, audio and video form about their experiences covering the event, and produce a narrative that can be shared by local outlets.

Students in both the middle and high school programs represent a variety of schools across Philadelphia including: Girard Academic Music Program, William Meredith Elementary School, J.R. Masterman Middle School, General George A. McCall Elementary and Middle School, Philadelphia High School for Girls, Franklin Learning Center, Scribe Video Center, and Saul High School. Students’ original news stories covering Convention-related activities, various caucus meetings and events will be published and promoted on PSTV, WHYY, KYW, PhillyMag.com, Metro, NBCPhiladelphia.com, and the Host Committee’s Facebook and Twitter channels using #DNCYNT.

“Serving on the DNC Youth News Team is a unique opportunity for our students and teachers to see presidential history unfold,” said Philadelphia School District Superintendent William R. Hite. “Our students are not only learning the inner workings of journalism and presidential politics, they are seeing firsthand the importance of civic engagement and our democratic process. I am proud they will carry not only the banner of their respective schools, but the well-wishes of peers and colleagues throughout the School District of Philadelphia.”

“WHYY is proud to once again be working with talented students from Philadelphia schools,” said Craig Santoro, Director of Educational Programs WHYY. “It’s very exciting that young people will have a voice at the convention through the Youth News Teams.”

This program is funded by The Philadelphia Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with the purpose of fostering young talent and providing a platform that adds the youth perspective and voice to a national dialogue.

Patrick J. Morgan, Knight Foundation Program Director for Philadelphia, said, “The program aims to foster young talent, while inspiring the next generation to get involved in our election process. Through it, we can create a stronger culture of civic engagement in Philadelphia and encourage students to be active participants in shaping their communities.”

Pedro A. Ramos, President and CEO of The Philadelphia Foundation, said, “We believe that journalism is vital to a strong community, and that few challenges can be faced without a healthy flow of news and information. This is a remarkable opportunity for Philadelphia’s youth — all natives of the digital age — to be uniquely engaged at a time of reflection in politics and journalism. The Philadelphia Foundation is proud to partner with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to teach the importance of news to young people and its power in in shaping our democratic society.”

Civic Youth Experience

Facilitated by the Host Committee, the Civic Youth Experience is the product of a new partnership between the Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) and Committee of Seventy, designed to create an opportunity for close to 1,800 local young people to participate in the civic excitement of the Convention by offering them free tickets to the new play “Voices of Voting” and providing introductory training as Election Ambassadors.

Through this partnership, close to 1,800 youth, including participants of the WorkReady summer program managed by PYN, will be introduced to Election Ambassadors training by Committee of Seventy and experience the organization’s “Voices of Voting” educational performance, set to debut during the Convention at Science Leadership Academy. This will be a one-hour customized program, offered as a scheduled field trip by WorkReady employers during the workday. It will allow participating young people to learn the history and value of voting, provide training to help register their neighbors to vote, and enable them to serve as non-partisan volunteers on Election Day.

By fostering a relationship between PYN and the Committee of Seventy, the Host Committee is enabling hundreds of motivated young people to be civically engaged during their summer employment experience. Through this partnership, Philadelphia young people will gain lifelong work skills and the tools to actively participate in the democratic process, all while experiencing a national political convention taking place in their city.

Funding for this partnership was provided through the generosity of a private local source.

 “This summer, not only are we connecting Philadelphia’s young people to the world of work, we are also making sure they have the opportunities and tools they need to be civically aware, engaged and energized,” says Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, President and CEO of PYN. “Our partnership with the DNC Host Committee and the Committee of 70 is helping to maximize the youth experience this summer, and for that we are both excited and grateful.”

“The Committee of Seventy is not normally known for commissioning theatrical productions, but we firmly believe in the power of the arts to make relevant the inspiring story of individual courage and sacrifice that secured the right to vote for millions of Americans,” said David Thornburgh, CEO of Committee of Seventy. “We’re thrilled to work with the Knight Foundation and someone of David Bradley’s caliber and reputation to inspire the next generation of voters.”

Philadelphia Youth Network is the managing partner of WorkReady, a cross-sector, city-wide initiative dedicated to improving the economic outcomes of the region’s youth by attracting, aligning, and investing resources in coordinated, youth-workforce-development strategies. One of the hallmarks of WorkReady Philadelphia is the summer employment program, which combines paid summer employment opportunities with formal and informal educational programs, training, and support in order to increase young people’s future employment prospects and academic success.

Targeted to middle and high school students but open to the general public, Voices of Voting is a short play commissioned by the Committee of Seventy and written and directed by award-winning Philadelphia artistic director David Bradley ties the personal struggles and political courage of the 1960’s campaign to secure the vote to the present-day challenge of engaging young people in our electoral process. Three actors play more than a dozen characters in an event full of audience participation and laced with live music from the award-winning hip-hop/funk/jazz collective Ill Doots. Each performance will be followed by a “talkback” session that challenges audience members to remember the courage of the young men and women of another generation who fought so hard to attain that fundamental right and renew their own commitment to citizenship.  Admission is free but reservations are required, for more information, and to reserve tickets, contact: voicesofvoting@seventy.org. In partnership with:  Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, the Philadelphia Youth Network, Urban League of Philadelphia, and the Urban Affairs Coalition.

Committee of Seventy’s Election Ambassador introductory training, incorporated into the “Voices of Voting” experience, seeks to educate students about civic engagement and encourage them to continue with the training in the Fall in the run up to the November 2016 election. By demystifying the election process these students are more likely to become voters themselves. Election Ambassadors are trained to become Philadelphia’s next generation of civic leaders and perhaps the next generation of “super voters.”

The Democratic National Convention will take place July 25-28, 2016 in Philadelphia.

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