Voter Education

Voter Education

 

High School Voter Project:

 Amy Kleissas, Chair

 

The "Voting Made Easy" digital lesson is posted PDF iconhere with an introductory paragraph to appeal to high school seniors, teachers and anyone who is interested in learning more about the voting process and voter registration. Information about the digital lesson has been published in the COMMUNICATOR and in the BLAST. The digital lesson was also sent to LWVUS as requested in response to an email which extended LWVEF grant deadlines and to the social media coordinator at LWVPA.

Anticipating that PA schools would remain closed for the balance of the school year, it was important to fast-track the digital lesson to high schools. One important positive of our lesson is that it is accessible to students on their phones, in addition to their computers and iPads. The digital lesson, updated to include new Primary Election information, has been emailed to all Allegheny County High Schools (including the Pittsburgh Public contacts) to Career and Tech schools and to Allegheny County Charters.

The lesson directs students to send a photo or screenshot of their voter registration application to their teachers.  Then teachers are asked to send that tally to my email. So far, we have received positive responses from six high school principals potentially reaching at least an additional 1000 students. Community organizations also have shared LWVGP social media posts about our digital lesson.

The digital lesson is a way to increase voter registration of not only high school seniors, but also of any citizen who might have access to it.  Please feel free to promote the digital lesson through the LWVGP website, or contact me at amy.kleissas@gmail.com (412.600.2581).

The High School Voter Project began with a grant three years ago. The PowerPoint, “Voting Made Easy” for use at the college level was modified by the committee to be more appropriate for high school seniors. Teacher resources were gathered including a “How to Vote” info-graphic poster, LWV materials, and a resource page of important websites. In the second year the PowerPoint was refined and presented to 450 seniors, registering 205 new, young voters.  

More about the LWVGP High School Project for 2020:

  • A LWVEF (Education Fund) grant was written and awarded in November 2019 for $800. These funds were used to produce the materials we shared with students and teachers.
  • We continued to target schools with large underserved populations.  In 2020, we identified nineteen Allegheny County Schools with the highest Free and Reduced Lunch populations, in addition to Pittsburgh Public Schools.  
  • Our presenters are former teachers or have teaching experience. Three additional presenters were trained. 
  • Our PowerPoint presentation (30minutes) provides some civic education background and answers "essential questions" about the voting process and new voting system. In the last 10 minutes of a class period, our volunteers help students register to vote. Our presentation has been reviewed by teachers and students and through the years has been enhanced by their feedback.
  • We respect school hierarchies:  we contact principalsand ask for designated personnel to work through. 
  • 46 Key Volunteers have done a terrific job supporting this important project.
  • We continued to receive very positive feedback from teachers and students; from a middle school (Elizabeth Forward) visited in November 2019, to a social justice class at Duquesne University visited in January 2020. At Duquesne University, we presented to 80 students as we switched back and forth with artist Penny Mateer who had students create fabric "Vote" posters to distribute through campus. 

 

In this third year, we presented to 600 students and received 490 registrations. Even more high school visits were being scheduled just as we had to suspend our in-person program due to the coronavirus emergency.

 

We kicked off the High School Voter Project in February with a successful visit to South Allegheny High School. Six more uplifting visits followed to: McKeesport HS, Elizabeth Forward HS, Chartiers Valley HS, Brentwood Borough HS, Clairton City HS, and Westinghouse Academy (PPS).  Feedback forms returned to us from these schools continued to be overwhelmingly positive. Our three-year goal of reaching Pittsburgh Public Schoolscame about with our visit toWestinghouse Academy on March 11.We were heartened by the enthusiastic students and staff. The chief of staff of Representative Gainey’s office and the PPS School Board president provided coordination, attended our lessons and offered their support. 

 

More exciting news was that many of the high schools we visited may qualify for the Governor’s Civic Engagement Award.  We promoted this award, administered by the PA State Department, in our contacts with schools. This award is presented to high schools where the number of eligible seniors who register to vote is 65% - 85% and above. High Schools are permitted to count students who were previously registered to vote in this count and the cut-off date for schools has been extended to May 22nd.

 

Beth Dolinar from WQED filmed our presentation at Brentwood HS on 3/2/20 as a part of WQED’s Voter Information Project-- Campaign U.  Six amazing student interviews were also filmed. “The Youth Vote” segment is now posted on the WQED website, which will run for one month.

 

Unfortunately everything changed with the coronavirus emergency, just as we were gearing up to doubleour reach by adding even more new school visits.  High school visits were suspended on March 12th.  We canceled visits to: Plum Borough HS, Chartiers Valley HS (cafeteria drive), Penn Hills HS, Propel Braddock HS, Steel Valley HS, and Montour HS.  School personnel noted that the pandemic crisis would only postpone our visits. They supported the option of a digital “Voting Made Easy” lesson which now includes a Voter Registration Application, opportunities for teachers to extend student learning and a copyright line. This online lesson was created with expert editing help from the team.