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In October 2009, The Youth Organizers at the United Teen Equality Center held a Youth-Led City Council Candidates Forum for the City-Council Candidates at which the teens asked the candidates if they would support lowering the voting age in municipal elections from 18 down to 17. All candidates supported this measure except for one.
After teen organizers from UTEC and community partners worked at City Council to organize a message for extending democracy to Lowell’s 17 year old population, Lowell City council had a final vote of 7-1 to draft a Home-Rule Petition on December 14, 2010 which was met with applause by our teen organizers and their peers who had filled the City Council chambers to watch as history made.
Now, teens in Lowell are mobilizing the State Legislature to support the Home-Rule Petition and their local initiative to Lower the Voting Age to 17 in Lowell municipal elections.
Teens from cities across Massachusetts came together in 2008 as a statewide youth-led coalition called Teens Leading The Way to plan their next campaign idea. As a group they discussed many problems that their communities across the state share and identified low youth voter turnout numbers, increasing high school dropout rates and an overall sense of disengaged youth.
The campaign to get civics into our schools was born from input from partner agencies and ways which they address these problems locally. The teens designed their own course curriculum which focuses on government knowledge, rights of young citizens, a history of youth and social movements and applied learning activities which connect students directly with opportunities to bring positive changes to their communities.
Now the teens have filed legislation with Senator Harriet Chandler of Worcester to get their course piloted into school across the state. The teens are also working with members in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as well as meeting with members of the Executive Office of Education to reach a shared goal: to teach active citizenship to students across the Commonwealth. As the teens move forward with their efforts to make change in Massachusetts’ education system they need your support! Please take a few moments to sign their petition to support their initiative to get civics back as a high school graduation requirement in Massachusetts public schools!