Social Work and Communities In Schools team up to teach Hug High students why their voice matters

Civic Literacy Program teaches students of all socioeconomic backgrounds how to advocate for themselves and their communities

From left to right: Jonathon Haley, University Civic Literacy Program coordinator, Asusena Garcia, bachelor of social work student intern, Danielle Sepulveda Viquez, bachelor of social work student intern, and Elisha Harris, Communities in Schools staff member.

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11/3/2016 | By: Staff Report |

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Social Work and local dropout prevention nonprofit organization, Communities In Schools of Western Nevada, have teamed up to facilitate a Civic Literacy Program at Hug High School in order to empower youth who live in low-income communities to increase their civic involvement and pique their interest in current affairs, politics and social and political networks for making change.

The School of Social work approached CIS of Western Nevada for the project because there has been a significant decline in recent decades in how young people understand government and their willingness to influence it. Research shows that youth from low income and minority communities have fewer opportunities to build civic competency, which results in the potential for decreased political power among groups who are most vulnerable to fluctuations in economic and social policy.  

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"Our hope is to provide students with in-depth training on state and local government," Mary Hylton, associate professor with the University's School of Social Work in the Division of Health Sciences, said. "We believe that when given the right skills, connections and opportunities, the students at Hug High School can emerge as the next leaders within our community."

CIS of Western Nevada site coordinators at Hug-tasked with case-managing students who are living in poverty and are at-risk for dropping out of school-are helping to coordinate the program and see a real value in helping students understand democratic principles and ways they can make their voices heard when they want to see change in their community.

"With a major election coming up, this is extremely relevant to the students we are working with, whether they are of voting age or not," Auburn Harrison, executive director of CIS of Western Nevada, said. "We want the students we work with to feel empowered to become actively involved in civic matters as they graduate and join the workforce."

The University and CIS of Western Nevada are offering the Civic Literacy Program to Hug High School students in the Equality Group, which meets every Thursday during lunchtime, as well as to Speech and Debate students who meet every Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. Course leaders have open discussions with students about privilege and the disparities that exist related to race, gender, socio-economic standing and education. They are also working toward being able to pinpoint issues of distrust in the government and facilitate ways to have their voices be heard in a way to affect change.

Communities In Schools of Nevada is the local affiliate of the nation's largest and most effective organization dedicated to keeping kids in school and helping them succeed in life. Working with both schools and the surrounding community, Communities In Schools of Nevada does whatever it takes to help kids stay in school and succeed in life.  Based directly inside schools, Communities In Schools of Nevada connects students and their families to basic and critical educational and community-based resources, tailored to each student's specific needs.  

Operating in 59 school sites in Western Nevada, Southern Nevada, and Northeastern Nevada, Communities In Schools of Nevada serves more than 58,000 students.  Nationally, Communities In Schools provides services in more than 2,200 schools in 26 states and the District of Columbia, serving 1.3 million young people and their families every year.  As the nation's leading dropout prevention organization, Communities In Schools is the only program proven to both decrease dropout rates and increase graduation rates. 

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