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Santa Cruz County 4-H teens put citizenship in action

The Issue

Students who participate in classroom discussions about current issues have a greater interest in politics, improved critical thinking and communication skills, more civic knowledge, and greater interest in discussing public affairs outside of school.

However, according to a 2006 phone survey of 1,700 15- to 25-year-olds conducted by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, most young Americans are misinformed about important aspects of politics and current events. For example, 53 percent were unaware that only citizens can vote in federal elections, 70 percent could not name a member of the President's cabinet, and 66 percent did not know that the United States has a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

What Has ANR Done?

In Santa Cruz County, six local 4-H teens put their civic knowledge to the test when they met with aides to U.S. Representatives Sam Farr and Anna Eshoo during their 4-H Citizenship Washington Focus trip.

To prepare for the week-long civics program in Washington, D.C., the teens researched issues impacting local citizens, interviewed decision makers on hot topics, and brushed up on current events. They spent time organizing their facts and rehearsing the messages they wished to convey.

During their meeting with the congressional aides, the teens presented their questions, concerns and ideas on the National Animal Identification System, the light brown apple moth, alternative fuels and animal burial policies. This process provided the teens with an opportunity to engage in the democratic process by professionally representing constituent concerns and advocating for the community.

The Payoff

Teens educate congressional aides

Due to their thorough research of local hot issues, the teens found themselves educating the legislative aides, who were not familiar with the National Animal Identification System. As a result of this leadership, aides for Rep. Farr highly praised the delegates and invited them to participate in a town hall meeting in Santa Cruz County.

Additionally, while in Washington, D.C., the delegates participated in activities that focused on current issues confronting the nation. They engaged in mock elections and congressional sessions designed to encourage them to become active in current issues and to prepare them for leadership now and in the future.

Clientele Testimonial

“I never knew someone so high up on the ‘food chain’ could care about what I know and think about issues that affect us in the community.” - A 4-H participant


Supporting Unit: Santa Cruz County

Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, (831) 763-8026, lschmittmcquitty@ucdavis.edu