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Chicago District Pilots Initiative to Bolster Civic Learning

There's nothing like a presidential campaign to help generate interest among young people in civics and participatory democracy.

And so the timing seems good for a new civic-learning initiative being rolled out this year in the Chicago school district, with support from several private foundations. The Global Citizenship Initiative will provide a yearlong civic-learning curriculum to seniors in a set of 15 pilot schools, with plans to expand in the future.

The initiative includes three dimensions: a one-semester civic-literacy course, civic action and service learning; and student leadership, according to the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, which is providing $250,000 this year to support the program. (The Spencer and MacArthur foundations also are supporting the work this year, with $50,000 and $250,000 respectively.)

"Our collective future depends on the ability of the next generation not only to vote, but also to take action to keep our communities vibrant and our system of government strong," said David Hiller, the president and CEO of the McCormick Foundation, in a press release.

The civics course will involve a number of projects, according to background materials provided by the McCormick Foundation, including drafting a classroom constitution and creating voter education guides. The civic-action component involves students working with local nonprofits to reinforce classroom learning. The leadership piece includes training, guidance, and support for students as they lead "meaningful and relevant" school improvement initiatives.

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