Program History & Overview

 

The Youth Civic Literacy Project and the Urban Agenda Model at Wayne State University is an ongoing civic learning project that utilizes student participation through the development of an agenda of issues that are important to the students.  The project began in 1986 as part of University American Government courses and later was developed into a high school and middle school social studies curriculum to provide students with practical and theoretical issues of politics, democracy, and civic engagement.  The Project has flourished as an innovative mechanism for getting young people to learn and participate in civic life. To date, thousands of students in Southeastern Michigan and throughout the world have participated in the Project.

      The Projectís activities require young people to discuss issues of general importance among themselves and develop an Issues Agenda based on a consensus. As more diverse populations participate, the process becomes increasingly effective. Shifts from urban and suburban, from high schools to middle schools, and from Southeastern Michigan schools to international schools provide all students with a greater appreciation of competing concerns and the relationship of having their issues resolved in the political process. The tools require participation, and the process creates an atmosphere that leads young people to take ownership in the outcome.

The Urban Agenda Model includes a school-to-school contact and collaboration within Southeastern Michigan and schools internationally. A number of local schools have partnered with international educational institutions with particular emphasis on newly democratizing nation-states including: Russia, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Nicaragua, South Africa, Afghanistan, India, and Peru among others. The adoption of the model has received positive responses as it brings individuals from different backgrounds together to discuss issues of general importance. The evaluations of the projectís impact indicate that those who participate in the project are more likely to develop empathy towards other groups and are more likely to seek established nonviolent mechanisms for resolving conflict.