As a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to uplifting the voices and civic leadership of DC youth, Mikva Challenge DC was honored to be selected by the Office of the Attorney General to receive funds returned to the District of Columbia. (See the announcement from the Office of the Attorney General for more information on this legal settlement.)
“Mikva DC is honored to have been chosen by the OAG to have the opportunity to invest in the brilliance, leadership and vision of our youth as they build more just and equitable schools and communities,” said Robyn Lingo, Executive Director of Mikva Challenge DC. “We know that investing in our democracy starts by supporting and empowering young people to be active changemakers. We greatly appreciate AG Racine’s work to ensure these funds are used by organizations, like ours, supporting the District.”
We take the responsibility to use these unexpected funds seriously, to further our mission to support DC youth in being informed, empowered, and active civic leaders, who are promoting a more equitable and just democracy. In a collaborative process with Mikva DC youth leaders, and our wider community of partner teachers, staff and Board, we will engage in a thoughtful, reflective and transparent process to recommit these funds to our programming here in Washington, DC.
Modeled after the successful civic engagement programming developed for youth in Chicago, Mikva DC began as a small pilot program in 2014-15, working with 200 students at four schools. Today, our impact is citywide, reaching over 1500 local students at more than 30 schools, and expanding our reach by 650% since our pilot year. Through our partnerships with classroom teachers, we integrate action civics into students’ classroom experiences. Outside of the classroom, we provide opportunities for students to engage in real-life democratic experiences, through our Student Voice Council, and our Elections in Action and Summer Fellowship programs.
All our work centers around our core values:
- Youth Voice – We know that youth are not apathetic, but rather are routinely uninvited and overlooked. We know that young people possess expertise about the issues that affect their communities and schools, and therefore should be included in the decisions that affect them.
- Civic Education – We believe that Democracy is a Verb! And therefore, we teach and learn democracy by doing democracy.
- Community – We believe community engagement is core to a thriving democracy, and that change happens best through communities coming together for a common goal.
- Equitable Inclusion – We recognize that there is still work to be done to build a fully representative, equitable, and inclusive democracy. Therefore, we name and recognize how systemic inequities have affected communities of color and historically marginalized and oppressed groups, so we can intentionally imbue our daily decision-making with equity.
- Reflection and Growth – We name and reflect on both the intent and impact of our words and actions to continuously grow.
The long-term benefits of Mikva Challenge’s work can be seen in a recent survey of our alumni from across the country.
- Mikva alumni are pursuing a BA at a rate almost double their national peers.
- 70% of Mikva alumni have earned a BA or higher, among those who are more than 4 years out from their participation in the program. This is compared to 33% of the general population
- 85% of alumni say the Communication Skills they learned through Mikva Challenge programs have significantly helped them in their lives.
- 82% of alumni say the Critical Thinking Skills they learned through Mikva Challenge programs have significantly helped them.
- Mikva alumni are also engaged in civic leadership at much higher rates than their peers.
○ Of those eligible to vote, 90% of Mikva alumni voted in the last presidential election, compared with 50% of their peers nationally.
○ 77% of Mikva alumni volunteer in their community, more than double the rate of their peers.
○ 44% of Mikva alumni volunteer for political campaigns, a rate more than triple their peers.
○ Mikva alumni are running for elected office at a rate more than double their peers.
○ 99% agree that their Mikva experience made them believe young people have the power to change the country.
You can hear the power of Mikva’s civic leadership development programing in the words of our alumni themselves.
“Mikva Challenge has helped me not only grow as a leader, youth advocate, and young woman. I have learned the power of my voice and using my knowledge to advance my community and other communities…… For the past four years, I have been supported and poured into with so much wisdom and embraced with unconditional love. Most importantly, my time in Mikva Challenge has pushed me to be persistent in taking action to make change.”
“Being part of Mikva has influenced me to actually listen and understand others’ political views. I always like to think that we are all adults with different perspectives and should treat each other with respect regardless of political views. Mikva also influenced me to stand firm in what you believe in and continue to do great things for others!”