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September 28, 2020

This election season marks 100 years of the vote for women. What actions did Susan B. Anthony and her contemporaries take to achieve this goal, and how can 21st CCLC students continue that legacy of working toward equality, whether for themselves or others? Drawing on basic lessons and tools in the Civic Learning and Engagement Course, discover how your students can take up the torch of civic action today and work toward equity for all.

Consider these eight strategies set forth in Y4Y’s Civic Learning and Engagement Implementation Checklist, and how remarkably they track with the suffrage movement!

Strategy 1: Identify and Engage Stakeholders

As early as 1850, the suffrage movement had a strong alliance with the abolitionist movement.

Whatever priorities you settle on for your civic learning and engagement activities, there will be partners in your community that share your common goals. These may be educators in your school district or at your local university. What about nonprofit organizations in your area dedicated to ensuring equity? These potential partners are probably just as eager to form partnerships as your 21st CCLC program is. Sit your program team down to discuss who those potential partners could be. Don’t be afraid to involve families in this search — they may already have community connections you haven’t established. Y4Y’s Involving Community Partners Checklist can guide these efforts.

Strategy 2: Define Needs, Goals and Assets

In 1848, the first Women’s Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. “The Declaration of Sentiments,” written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, set a long-term agenda for suffragists.

There will be many elements that factor into your needs and goals. Is your civic learning and engagement primarily intended to meet the social and emotional needs of your students? To support learning in their school day? The Y4Y tool for Brainstorming Civic Engagement Topics can help you systematically weigh the needs of your students and your community to direct you toward worthy initiatives.

Strategy 3: Prepare for Civic Learning and Engagement Activities

From 1866-68, when members were able to refocus after the Civil War, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the American Equal Rights Association (AERA) and began publication of a weekly newspaper, The Revolution, to re-formalize their structure and message.

Just as team-building and leadership were crucial in the suffrage movement, so, too, do you need to foster these in your program to succeed in civic engagement. A good place to start is the Y4Y tool on Team-Building Activities.

Strategy 4: Set the Foundation for Civic Learning and Engagement Activities

In 1869, national suffrage was divided on logistics: The National Women’s Suffrage Association replaced the AERA and continued to press for a constitutional amendment, while the American Woman Suffrage Association worked on a smaller scale to affect state constitutions.

One goal can have different pathways to achievement. When you establish your foundation for civic learning and engagement activities, you’re giving thought to the learning approach that best suits your students and to logistics such as budget, schedule and materials. Look to the Y4Y Committee and Club Planning Worksheet to ensure that your efforts are defined early.

Strategy 5: Intentionally Design Activities

Susan B. Anthony and many like her remained unmarried throughout their lives just to ensure their rights around property ownership and autonomy. To further their cause, many were arrested, tried and jailed for voting illegally.

Intentionality demands SMART goals. Y4Y’s Service Learning Toolbox and Intentional Activity Design: Mapping Needs to Activities tool can help you shape the best activities to achieve your civic learning and engagement goals. They’re unlikely to be as drastic as the activities of the suffragists, but tailored to impact the lives of your students and their community in a constructive way.

Strategy 6: Use Best Practices for Student Engagement

The Progressive Era played out from the 1890s through 1925. The increasingly public role of all women brought the suffrage movement to the front and center of American politics.

The women and men of the suffrage movement understood that engagement was key for their mission to maintain momentum through adversity. How will you keep your students engaged in their civic initiatives? You’ll map their knowledge and wonders on relevant topics, and capture and account for student voice and choice in all you do, especially as you foster student interest in promoting equity in the world around them.

Strategy 7: Implement With Fidelity

In 1915, Mabel Vernon and Sara Bard Field collected over half a million petition signatures around the country, but states like New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania continued to reject women’s suffrage. In 1917, dedication to the movement even led to hunger strikes by jailed picketers.

Implementing with fidelity is doing what you said you’d do, and that’s exactly what leaders of the suffrage movement did. You have all your pieces in place to implement an engaging and impactful experience for your students to play an active role in shaping their community. Y4Y’s Implementing With Fidelity Guide can help you ensure that your adherence, dosage, engagement and delivery are all on target.

Strategy 8: Celebrate and Sustain Your Initiatives

In 1919, the 19th Amendment was finally passed, and it was ratified on Aug. 26, 1920. Women legally cast their ballots across the country for the first time in the 1920 general election. But the fight for women’s rights had only just begun.

The success of the suffrage movement is a perfect illustration for your students to appreciate the slow rate of progress, but the importance of persevering. Your 21st CCLC initiatives in civic learning and engagement, on a smaller scale, should have successes to celebrate, but leave your students wanting more. More learning. More equity. More engagement. More success.

 


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