According to the recently published Miami Millennial Civic Health Index Report, Miami’s residents ages 18-29 – also known as “Millennials” – ranked lower than their counterparts across the state and nation on indicators like volunteering and voting. Young adults without any college experience were particularly cut off from civic life, the report found.
The National Conference on Citizenship and The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, founded by Senator Bob Graham and Congressman Lou Frey, produced the report, which was released at Mobilize.org‘s Target 2020 Florida Summit earlier this summer. The event brought together almost 100 South Florida community college students in Miami, FL, to discuss ways to boost community college completion rates and increase the participation of Miami’s Millennial generation in civic life.
“The results of the Miami Millennial Civic Health Report underscore how critical it is for Millennials in Miami to get involved in addressing the unique challenges that face our generation,” said Maya Smith, CEO of Mobilize.org, the nonprofit that hosted the summit. Mobilize.org empowers and invests in Millennials to create and implement solutions to social problems. “There are some steep hills to climb, but the creativity and energy of the students is palpable.”
The report suggests that opportunities for experiential civic education that allow students to actually practice the skills of engaged citizenship should be expanded and strengthened in both high schools and colleges—particularly those serving non-traditional and low income students. Additionally, the report recommends expanding civic engagement opportunities for non-college bound youth, as an estimated one-third of Miami’s Millennials do not have any college experience. Programs like YouthBuild, which encourages young people to work towards their degrees or GEDs while learning leadership and job skills, should be expanded, the report recommends.
Race affected electoral engagement, but in unexpected ways, according to the report. African-Americans and Cuban Millennials were the groups most likely to register and vote, while Whites were more likely to have engaged on other indicators, such as volunteering or attending a public meeting. Non-Cuban Latinos were generally the least engaged group of Miami Millennials. The small numbers of Millennials engaged in these activities, however, muted the overall effects of race.
Senator Graham joined Under Secretary of U.S. Dept of Education Dr. Martha J. Kanter and other local leaders at the Target 2020 Florida Summit as students discussed solutions to low graduation and civic participation rates.
“The report that we are releasing today is an indication that we are not doing enough in South Florida,” said Sen. Graham. “As public and private leaders, we have an obligation to join together to build a sustainable framework that insures that all of our young people have opportunities to experience civic life and to build the skills of responsible, effective and honorable citizenship. Successful completion of that task requires young people who care about community issues and local institutions that can provide them with opportunities to learn about civic work by doing it.”
Amber Goodwin is Director of Network Initiatives at Mobilize.org.