Youth of the United States Mission Statement
Summary: YOTUS, a student-run organization founded at the University of California, Los Angeles, is dedicated to the promotion of civic engagement and political awareness amongst high school students. In a rapidly evolving, modern democracy, it is essential for young students to be exposed to open political and civic discourse in order to become analytical, engaged members of their community and country. The goal of YOTUS is to create comprehensive educational programs that will increase student awareness of local and national political processes while also motivating students to pursue civic and political opportunities within their communities.
Why: It is vital to the future of our democracy that we foster a generation of students that are acutely aware of the issues facing their local communities, states, and nation. Throughout our country’s history, youth have always been at the forefront of political change. They have served as a dynamic source of innovation and creativity, while catalyzing movements that have fueled important sociopolitical advancements. However, at unprecedented numbers, the “millennial” generation has become increasingly disconnected from the political process. Our mission is to re-engage these students, specifically those in historically underprivileged communities who have both the intellectual curiosity and the determination to become politically active members of society, yet may not be given an avenue to channel their passions. We seek to facilitate political debate and engage in discourse that will challenge students’ viewpoints, while imparting them with newfound knowledge of their government, the confidence to tackle issues pertinent to their communities, and the communication skills necessary for the careers of tomorrow.
How: Our organization has four main objectives:
- Promote civic engagement and energize students to become politically active members of our democracy:
- Our unique practice of applying the Socratic Method to small, student-led seminars challenges each student, on an individual level, to contribute to the discussion and defend their beliefs and arguments in ways that will teach them invaluable rhetorical skills.
- We will encourage students to research and offer their opinions on topics at every level. By making students cognizant of political issues that affect their schools, communities, state, and nation, students can become more engaged in the political process and try to take an active role in it while also learning crucial debate and argument skills.
- Guide students in the creation of unique content and prepare them for entry to higher education and a career in public service:
- A central feature of YOTUS is student participation in the YOTUS Blog (http://yotusblog.org/). Students will be trained to contribute well-researched, argumentative essays that conform to special guidelines based on their contribution type, ranging from short Op-Ed style editorials to long, multi-page research articles. These posts will be available online and can act as a digital community message board where students from all around Los Angeles can give their unique perspectives on political issues they face and read about the issues their peers are passionate about.
- Blog posts also aim to help students refine the rhetorical and research skills that are required for both higher education as well as careers in public service. By allowing students to research and write on topics that are important to them and their communities, they can utilize and refine the skills they learn in class in an enjoyable setting and author writing samples that can be used in both college and internship applications. The blog will also help students who are interested in pursuing the liberal arts, journalism, or a future in policy making show their interest and ability to think about complex political problems from a young age.
- College student mentors will help students in searching out and applying for public service- oriented internships in settings such as Congressional offices, city councils, and community activist groups which will provide our students with enriching and rewarding practical experience. Our experienced college mentors can guide students through these processes which they have successfully completed themselves, providing invaluable advice along the way.
- Offer students a unique opportunity to be mentored by successful college students at one of the nation’s top universities:
- Giving students access to one of the nation’s top research universities as well as all of the resources that come with that can be an invaluable tool to help advance high school students’ education as well as an inspiration to pursue higher education further by giving them a taste of what university life is like.
- Giving students access to top university students also allows them to develop a peer relationship with them, with our mentors giving our students valuable advice about potential future careers, educational opportunities, and more.
- Finally, developing long-lasting friendships between our college mentors and high school students in which our mentors come to have a vested interest in the success of our students. This will not only benefit our students through all of the advantages of having a college mentor, but create friendships and support mechanisms that will bring UCLA and students in the Los Angeles community closer together.
- Establish a model for universities throughout the nation to adopt their own chapters of YOTUS to cater to their communities:
- Providing a basic curriculum that promotes the core concepts of the American political system and its institutions while allowing the flexibility and freedom to tailor the curriculum to engage the students of a specific community.
- Bringing students from diverse communities together online and through common topics by means of the YOTUS Blog and regional conferences to create an online and in-person space to facilitate dialogue about common issues across diverse communities. By providing students with the opportunity to experience and learn about the different issues that affect a diverse range of communities, students will be able to expand their understanding of common issues and work together to attempt to create unique and innovative solutions.
- Allow for flexibility based on community issues and needs in order to engage and connect with students from each specific community. By tailoring the program to each specific community, a seemly distant and disconnected political system can be made more personal as students are able to see how issues that affect their community are often found throughout the nation and how they have been addressed.
Vision: YOTUS will become an efficient, sustainable outlet for political and civic discourse in the Los Angeles School District and a model for youth civic engagement throughout the United States. YOTUS’s creation of a structured, university driven model will allow for the program to be implemented at any university across the country. By providing high school students direct access to an institution of higher education, they will gain the knowledge and the confidence that will make their own educational pursuits an attainable reality. Through our flexible curriculum that seeks to address pressing issues of each specific community, YOTUS successfully engages students from a diverse range of communities. The program integrates and unifies various university chapters through the YOTUS Blog and regional conferences to better allow students from different communities to access both online and physical spaces to facilitate constructive dialogue surrounding current issues.
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