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August 11, 2020

Edward M. Kennedy Institute launches virtual Youth Advisory Council amid COVID-19

Digital “Youth Movements” project will focus on online advocacy and virtual civic education to encourage political participation from younger generations

Boston, MA – The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United State Senate announced today the launch of its reimagined Youth Advisory Council as a virtual advocacy project focused on empowering youth voices in activism and civic education. The politically-focused cohort, a supporting effort of the Institute’s Youth Movements project (normally hosted in-person prior to disruptions from COVID-19), will pivot to focus on digital platforms and social media as a form of online advocacy to inform and mobilize political youth movements.

This summer’s youth advisors, participants in the city of Boston’s SuccessLink jobs program, will focus on online advocacy and community organizing via virtual platforms, researching effective use of the internet and social media for online advocacy and community organizing, and using their firsthand experiences to apply them to civic engagement and politics. Specific themes include the importance of storytelling in political movements, understanding of personal experiences as relevant and valuable in advocacy, and integration of advocacy into students’ personal and professional lives. The Institute’s pivot to a new virtual youth advisory program offering closely aligns with the current form of youth advocacy: rooted in social media with supporting multimedia assets such as images and videos, hashtags, and signature-based petitions to generate attention and bring change to societal issues.

“It’s important to meet this young generation of organizers where they feel comfortable advocating, and that is mostly through online mobilization,” said Zubeda Khan, youth program manager at the Kennedy Institute. “Even in normal times, not everyone goes in-person to a march or a rally. Political engagement manifests itself in a number of ways, and this new program is the result of the Institute understanding the importance of educating and encouraging the next generation to participate in this type of online advocacy.”

Through the newly reimagined program, the Institute will collaborate with the advisory council to create offerings that fully engage young people in civics, government, and representation. The Institute will disseminate online resources for young activists, such as its Youth Action Guides, that explore local and national issues and provide guidance on how to engage and support political movements through organizing platforms, messaging, and mobilization. Students will be encouraged to draw upon personal stories and digital exhibitions to represent the societal and political change they would like to see.

“At the Kennedy Institute, we are focused on the importance of promoting civic education and the fundamental tenets of democracy,” said Sarah Yezzi, director of education, family and youth programming at the Kennedy Institute. “As we all know, there is a growing movement of young people pushing for political and social change, so understanding effective methods of organizing on digital platforms is crucial to reaching the youth audience. Harnessing the enthusiasm of these students and applying their insights to our existing resources for civic discourse will position the Institute to better inspire our younger generations towards political engagement.”

About the Edward M. Kennedy Institute
The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate is dedicated to educating the public about the important role of the Senate in our government, encouraging participatory democracy, invigorating civil discourse, and inspiring the next generation of citizens and leaders to engage in the civic life of their communities. Learn more via www.emkinstitute.org.

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