Civic Engagement – A Growing Role Across Community and Campus

(L-R) Darien Civic Engagement Project namesake Steven Darien, Eagleton Institute Director Ruth B. Mandel, Rutgers University – New Brunswick Chancellor Richard L. Edwards, Center for Youth Political Participation Director Elizabeth C. Matto, Assemblyman Dan Benson and Rutgers University – New Brunswick Vice President for Academic Affairs and Administration Karen Stubaus.

What better way to celebrate Spring than with graduation ceremonies? But, it’s not just students graduating this time.

The Eagleton Institute of Politics recently had a graduation of sorts with the promotion of its Youth Political Participation Program (YPPP) into a full center, now known as the Center for Youth Political Participation (CYPP).

Who exactly are the “youth” served by the Center? New Brunswick’s “Millennial Generation” or those born between the 1980’s and early 2000’s. Millennials tend to focus on technology, social media and issues of civic engagement. The Center hopes to capture their interests in both local and global issues.

CYPP has five programs: RU Ready, RU Voting, State House Express, Young Elected Leaders Project and Darien Civic Engagement Project. These programs exist to educate on what it means, and what it involves, to be civically engaged. However, it’s not just collegiate students who benefit. Rutgers students prepare to be great leaders through experience with New Brunswick’s middle and high school students as well as with their local leaders.

RU Ready engages students in New Brunswick High School’s US History I courses to provide those high school students with tools to be actively involved with initiatives in their community. The success of this is due to a hands-on approach where students are engaged in ongoing conversations and problem-solving activities specifically related to New Brunswick. RU Ready engaged with nine US History I course sessions just this past year and culminated with a conference at the high school.

“The Center stands to play a growing role in a national conversation on teaching civic engagement,” said CYPP Director and Associate Research Professor Dr. Elizabeth Matto. “Teaching civic engagement is a multi-level conversation across the country, meaning it’s not restricted to just Political Science, but we can integrate civic engagement across all disciplines.”

The Mayor’s Office works with Eagleton across programs and conferences, but most notably partnered on a similarly-named program called “RU Ready to Go to City Hall?” in 2014 with plans to repeat and expand the program this year.

“RU Ready to Go to City Hall?” is an educational tour series offered to New Brunswick Public School students that takes them into City Hall for a tour of municipal departments. This gives our students first-hand exposure to the nuts and bolts behind municipal government.

“All this has been thanks to the relationships across the community,” Dr. Matto said. “The notion that this work extends across the campus and into the community is exciting. This is what is expected to continue as partnerships grow.”

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