Engaging a group of teenagers is no easy task. While young people may have a reputation for being more interested in social media than social action, the creative solutions they come up with can be surprising when you open up a dialogue about issues effecting their daily lives.
Tasked with developing and harnessing these young leaders is Chicago non-profit Mikva Challenge. By providing opportunities for high school students to participate in the democratic process, each year Mikva prepares over 6000 young people to be more informed and thoughtful citizens.
Through Mikva’s Community Problem Solving program, students analyze assets and needs in their community, develop a research strategy for a particular issue and take action based on the data they’ve analyzed. Past projects have addressed topics as wide-ranging as sexual harassment on street corners to raising awareness around teenage homelessness.
To celebrate student achievement throughout the year, Mikva holds an annual Action Civics Fair each May. After spotting a number of their young people wearing buttons already, the Mikva staff decided that custom buttons would make the perfect item to reward students for their hard work. Mikva Challenge Program Coordinator Jocelyn Broitman said, “We had done ribbons in the past but decided buttons might be more exciting for [the students].”
Jocelyn worked with Busy Beaver Designer, Natalie Peoples, to translate the three areas of each student project– community analysis, research and action– into compelling buttons. Community stakeholders, elected officials and educators will serve at judges at the fair and, based on how well projects performed, will award the buttons to student “civic experts.”
Jocelyn said that the staff loved the buttons, and is hopeful that as students wear them in their daily lives, they’ll feel part of the wider community of young people working on positive change. “The hope for the buttons is that even after the Civics Fair, [students] will see each other around the city, notice the button and feel connected to the youth action civics community.”
Mikva Challenge’s 12th annual Action Civics Fair will take place next Wednesday, May 28th from 4:30-6:30pm at the Chicago Cultural Center. Celebrating civic activism in youth from all over Chicago, student projects will be judged by community stakeholders, elected officials and educators. If you’re interested in attending as a judge or visitor, contact Tessa Zevallos at email@example.com or (312) 863-6345.
Want to check out more innovative ways non-profits are using buttons to get their message out into the world? Read about how The Art Institute of Chicago is engaging members to “help fill the galleries.”