The Blog

Youth Vote America: Student Learning and Engaged Citizenship

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Tis the season to be kissing babies and shaking hands.....yes, it's a Presidential Election Year. Whether you're a Democrat or Republican, most people agree this is a game changing Election year. There are simply too many things at stake.

All the candidates have stated that there is an opportunity to do something: Voter turnout. We can't sit on the sidelines like we did in 2012.

In 2012, there were major issues at stake as well and an estimated $6 billion dollars was spent on the campaigns. Yet - voter turnout fell to 57.5 percent of eligible voters - down from 62.3 percent in 2008 according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. Although an estimated 126 million voters turned out in 2012, 93 million eligible citizens decided to stay home.

In 2016 The American Public Education Foundation (APEF) is inspiring the youth of America to get engaged in the voting process. APEF is asking students to participate in polls and contests and providing free resources to teachers. And while student's votes may not officially count until they are 18, foundation leaders say getting students involved early may make students engaged citizens later in life and may spark family discussions and interest in eligible voters. Additionally, all poll results will be shared with the Presidential hopefuls.

"Our government is elected by its citizens and every vote impacts our lives from education to homeland security to health care," says APEF Founder David Pickler. "The APEF team passionately and profoundly believes in the power of public education to transform lives, grow economies and strengthen America. Our nation's elementary and secondary can turn to APEF in 2016 for free resources to better understand the voting process in America."

APEF was founded to provide free resources and opportunities to teachers and students through programs and services that support high-quality public education. 9 out of 10 children - more than 50 million - attend American's public schools according to the National Center for Education Statistics and many are underserved.

What can students and teachers expect in 2016 from the American Public Education Foundation?

• Youth Vote America: Students can vote on the issues most important to them in a poll that is available between January 4 - 25, 2016. The poll will be available in English and Spanish and results will be shared with all Presidential hopefuls. www.theapef.org
• A rich and free curriculum on the Voting Process in America will be made available - for free - to every teacher in the United States. The curriculum, "Electing the Electors: How an American Becomes President" was created by Educator Maria Basilko Davis, M.Ed., The curriculum will provide lessons for social studies, geography, history, and English teachers. Mrs. Davis's school, Duncan Elementary, located on Fort Hood, Texas, received recognition as a National School of Character and Texas School of Character. There will be a curriculum for elementary teachers and middle/high school teachers focused on the importance of voting in a democracy, the electoral process, background of all 50 states, how to increase voter turnout, how to register to vote and much more. Students will also be asked to cast their vote for President in October.
• Picture Freedom Art Contest - a national contest in partnership with the Underground Railroad Museum Freedom Center (URMFC) in Cincinnati, Ohio will be announced in February focusing on the freedoms we have in the United States. The contest will be open for students in grades 7 - 12. Students will be asked to submit an original drawing, painting or photograph. First prize $3,500; Second $2,000 and Third $1,000. Honorable mention includes $100 for the 4 - `12 winners. All artwork will be on display at the "Picture Freedom" Art Exhibition at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio in July. First, second and third place winners will also receive a free trip for TWO to attend the event. The contest officials opens February 16, 2016.
• In honor of Cesar Chavez Month in March, all educational resources will be available in Spanish.

The American Public Education also holds the National Anthem Simultaneous Sing-a-long each year. The annual event will be held on September 9, 2016 10:00am EST - 1:00pm PST. The American Public Education Foundation will provide free curriculum resources for teachers to use with their students. This curriculum teaches students the words, meaning, music and history of the Star-Spangled Banner. There will be events held nationwide with an estimated 1 million students participating.

In 2015, special events were held across the country including the following locations: St. Anselm College and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio; Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland; and the Flight 93 National Memorial. Special guests at these events included U.S. Senators Jack Reed, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham: Lt. Governor Spencer Cox; Janine Stange - the "National Anthem Girl"; and country singer Christi Baeuerle. APEF was also endorsed by notable politicians such as Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), Governor Bill Haslam, (R-TN) and Senator Amy Kobuchar.

To learn more about the American Public Education Foundation's free educational resources, polls and contests, log onto www.theapef.org

..

.