Award to Deepen Impact in Chicago and bring Action Civics To Youth across the Country

Chicago, IL July 17, 2017 – Mikva Challenge has been awarded a Community Capital Grant of $1 million from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of 10 nonprofit organizations to receive this prestigious recognition. The Award, which was announced today and be disbursed over the next four years, will help Mikva Challenge deepen its impact in Chicago and bring its signature Action Civics programs, curricula, and trainings to thousands of low-income students with the goal of strengthening our democracy and developing a new generation of empowered civic leaders.

“Mikva’s Action Civics is a powerful door opener for young people,” said Mikva Challenge CEO Michelle Morales. “It takes the often mysterious and distant world of politics and public policy and makes it real for young people. Mikva also shows youth that they deserve a seat at the table in our civic decision making and that they have real expertise and creativity that can help us solve our biggest problems.”

Mikva alumnus Berto Aguayo credits his experience with Mikva Challenge with helping him leave gangs and succeed in high school and college. Aguayo, now a community organizer for the Resurrection Project in Back of the Yards, says his Mikva summer internship at Alderman Michele Smith’s office and subsequent experience on Mikva’s Mayoral Youth Commission, convinced him, he said, that “I could express the love I had for my community through civic engagement and fighting for social justice issues instead of fighting other youth that happened to live on the other side of the tracks.”

The MacArthur grant is targeted towards developing leadership skills of youth from under-resourced communities and putting them at the center of decision making with community stakeholders and elected officials of all levels. It will also enable us to bring our unique Action Civics framework to cities and school districts in need of high quality civics education.

“Youth empowerment and youth voice is at the very core of Mikva Challenge and our Action Civics work, and we want to bring these two elements to all aspects of education and advocacy. I strongly believe this is the way forward to a more inclusive and healthy democracy,” said Brian Brady, Mikva Challenge National Director and President.

In a statement released today to announce the grants, MacArthur Foundation President Julia Stasch said, “We want our hometown to be a city where opportunity is equitable and justice can thrive. To make that aspiration a reality we are investing in the strength and growth of nonprofit organizations that focus on justice, provide critical services, build communities, look at persistent problems in new ways, and support a new generation of leaders.”

Mikva Challenge is transforming civic learning by providing strategies and pathways for young people to learn democracy by doing democracy. Recent alumni surveys show that young people in the Mikva program vote at three times the rate of their peers, volunteer at twice the rate of peers, and graduate college at three times the average rate of Chicago Public School students. To learn more about our Action Civics work and curriculum please visit,

Mikva Challenge is a non-partisan, nonprofit that develops youth to be informed, and active citizens and community leaders. We do this by engaging youth in Action Civics, an authentic and transformative learning process built on youth voice and youth expertise.