This week I was reading over last week’s blog post, Why Does Civic Engagement Matter, and I was stuck by a thought: Do people identify with the word ‘citizen’?
When I use the word ‘citizen,’ I’m talking about the idea of being a member of and supporting one’s community and country. So often I hear someone rattled off a group of adjectives that defines him/her like, ‘I’m a sister, a wife, a daughter, and a friend’ but you rarely here someone say, ‘I’m a citizen of Denver.’ Why is that? Do people just not think about it or are fewer people identifying themselves with the word ‘citizen?’
Citizenship has become a slippery slope. With immigration reform as a main platform of the 2016 Presidential race, many have begun to see citizenship as synonymous with legal immigration status.
At Earth Force, we believe citizenship is about caring for and being invested in your community. We feel it’s critical to instill these values and ideas in young people now, so they are more likely to see themselves as a citizen of their community, as well as a citizen of the environment, for a lifetime.
So what’s the key to getting young people (or adults) to see themselves as citizens? INVOLVEMENT! ENGAGEMENT! ACTION!
A powerful piece of the Community Action and Problem-Solving Process is its focus on connecting to community. We want young people to talk with their neighborhoods, experience a sense of place, and challenge the norm. We want young people to understand that if they care about their community and the environment, they can effect change! It’s so important that we help youth see that they are a critical piece of their community’s unique makeup so that they become active contributors today. And it’s equally important that the adults in that community recognize and embrace young people in the citizen role.
During this holiday season, as we reflect on our year and acknowledge our gratitude, let’s agree together to BE citizens of our community.
I know Earth Force young people will.
Author: Kristen Mueller
Kristen Mueller leads national communications, creating engagement and excitement around Earth Force, and its partners’, hands on, minds on programming. Specializing in traditional media and social media relations, she brings youth voice and leadership to the forefront of the environmental education field.