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    With a crucial election year on the horizon, Rock the Vote celebrated our Democracy Class program with our second annual Democracy Day this past Friday, March 23rd. From coast to coast on Democracy Day, Rock the Vote, along with educators across the country, taught Democracy Class to students, providing them with the tools they need to access voter registration and participation.

    On Democracy Day, Rock the Vote rallied with 200 students in Philadelphia with the historical National Constitution Center (NCC) and pumped the vote up at Los Angeles’ Roybal High School with the Youth Policy Institute (YPI). Both events garnered over 60 newly registered voters and secured another 60 pledges to vote. Both events included diverse audiences and speakers. At the NCC, surrounded locally by relevant landmarks such as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, students from five different Philadelphia-area high schools gathered for a tour of the Center, followed by a Democracy Class taught by Rock the Vote President Heather Smith, local artist Nikki Jean and Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carole Aichele. Uncle O, DJ at Power 99 FM, moderated the event and introduced RTV’s ‘History of Voting’ video featuring Perez Hilton, John Legend, Bridget Kelly and Darren Criss; David Eisner, NCC President and CEO also attended, along with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (via video message) and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. See media coverage from Democracy Day in Philadelphia from CBS Philly.

    3,000 miles and 300 more students away, YPI and Rock the Vote gathered at Roybal High School. Several set-up booths offered settings for students to discuss youth issues such as college costs and the future of the environment. There were also opportunities for chats with celebrity guests, and information on citizenship rights and local voting laws. RTV and YPI also co-hosted California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Los Angeles School Board President Monica Garcia, L.A. county registrar and county clerk Dean Logan, YPI President Dixon Slingerland, Rock the Vote’s Director of Development Amanda Brown, and Celebrity High artists such as School Gyrls, DJ James Andre Jefferson Jr., Reuben Cannon, Ncredible Hero and The Rangers. With so much entertainment, even SOS Bowen broke out into some dance moves. Among the speakers on stage, a sea of hand-made signs touted “Roybal Rocks the Vote” and the students’ enthusiasm for the day’s events.

    At both events, students wrote on chalkboards and customizable buttons why they vote – answers ranged from “because my voice matters” to “because I got swag.” Overall, young participants made sure their voices were heard. In L.A., the students stayed three hours later than scheduled (during a Friday afternoon!) to engage in activities, and in Philadelphia, students used the NCC’s constitutional artifacts and Democracy Class lesson plan to explain why they will vote in November.

    Democracy Day underlined a key message for youth voters everywhere: pay attention and have a voice. Rendell urged students to recognize that they have an equal say in their democracy. Garcia told her young audience “your country needs you” and “you represent our future and our now.” With 500 more young voters informed on Democracy Day, and the ranks counting, the representation of young people is definitely increasing for 2012. Peter Rothberg from The Nation really sums up the power of Democracy Class in his recent piece, while The New York Times urges educators to sign up for the program here.

    Our second annual Democracy Day has come and gone, but it’s left a legacy for 2012. In fact, the day kicks off Rock the Vote’s 100 Days of Learning, where educators across the country teach a Democracy Class to their students between now and the end of the school year. Join them and sign up to for your free Democracy Class toolkit here: www.democracyday.com

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    Kelly Holleran

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

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