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James Wellemeyer, UK & USA, 19

Project: Young Voices

Basic Human Needs: Education

After the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, James bumped into his friend Maria and learned that she had not voted. As the daughter of undocumented immigrants, Maria was eligible to vote but had never learned how to register. James immediately researched the voting turnout and was shocked to learn that only half of eligible young Americans actually cast a ballot on Election Day. He talked to friends from both public and private schools in his community, and learned that most civics curricula focused on 18th Century U.S. history. Few schools taught students how to register to vote, and no schools exposed students to the narratives of politically active young people. James decided to create an educational resource that would include practical civics information and the narratives of civically engaged youth. With a grant from his school, James interviewed a group of diverse young political activists throughout the United States along with other politically active youth from their networks. He blended his interviewees’ narratives with modern civics information, including how to register to vote and how to recognize political bias in media, and created Young Voices. This 150-page civics e-textbook is currently used in over 40 schools across the U.S. and has been featured in Vice News and Education Week. James is currently working on a second edition of Young Voices and creating a website to increase the accessibility of his curriculum.