By Jovan Paige, program officer Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
From coast to coast, there is an undeniable surge of interest and participation in democracy, signifying a fresh wave of accountability and empowerment. This trend is particularly pronounced in metropolitan hubs like Atlanta, where our community has a rich history of active civic engagement. In the 2020 presidential election, a remarkable shift occurred as half of eligible voters ages 18–29 participated, a significant leap from 39 percent in 2016, as reported by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. The midterms in both 2018 and 2022 witnessed the highest voter turnout among this demographic in at least the past three decades. These trends challenge the common assumption of young people being disengaged, painting a dynamic picture of an actively participative youth. However, this recent trend should not actuate a demeanor of victory in the ongoing battle for equity, human rights and a representative democracy.
To that end, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta (Foundation), in partnership with TCG Impact, are collaborating on an effort to foster a deeper understanding of democracy and civic engagement among our youth.
The Foundation’s Power and Leadership – TogetherATL Fund ensures all residents in Atlanta have a voice and are empowered to use it through a strategic focus on civic engagement, civic journalism and civic education. This fund seeks to identify and operationalize dynamic ways to build upon the momentum of the 2018 and 2022 midterm elections in an effort to achieve voting rates equal to, or exceeding, the national average by 2026. Such a goal needs an intentional focus on factors that include building an infrastructure of civic education starting with our youth – the next generation of voters – civic leaders and elected officials.
In September, TCG Impact embarked on a journey to help students become more informed, engaged citizens. In partnership with the Foundation and UPS, the organization held an event titled “Delivering Democracy” to more than 2,700 Atlanta Public School high school students. Jacoria Borders, president and CEO of TCG Impact, described The Delivering Democracy Tour as, “A cultural movement, a celebration of civic engagement and a call to action for the leaders of tomorrow.”
Since the inception of its pilot program, Democracy Fest, in 2022, the Foundation has served alongside TCG Impact and several community partners to engage with more than 8,000 students between the ages of 16-18 to promote civic education and participation. In September 2023, The Democracy Tour visited eight high schools in the Atlanta Public Schools system and mobilized more than 150 students to register to vote and/or sign up to be poll workers.The impact of the Democracy Tour extends far beyond the classroom. This initiative shows the results of past, present and future change-makers, nurturing a generation of informed and engaged citizens to fully realize the influence of their collective voice. To learn more about the Foundation’s civic engagement work, visit our website.