The health of a democracy depends on the educated participation of its citizens. The significant challenges currently facing our nation will require creative and innovative policymaking and active engagement from citizens from every walk of life. But a 2006 nationwide survey by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning (CIRCLE) at Tufts University confirms that substantial numbers of youth are disconnected from politics and community life. As schools have focused more on improving test scores in reading and math, school-based civic education has suffered. Moreover, students who live far away from Washington, DC often have difficulty connecting their own lives to the policies being shaped in the nation’s capital and what role they can play in their own communities and strengthening our democracy as active and engaged citizens.

Of considerable concern is the sizable participation gap that exists among different groups of young Americans. According to CIRCLE, “Non-white, poor, and/or immigrant youth…demonstrate consistently lower levels of civic and political knowledge, skills, positive attitudes, and participation, as compared to their wealthier and white counterparts. As a result, they face serious political disadvantages.” The 2011 Civic Mission of Schools Report confirms that family income level is also a major factor in electoral participation—families earning more than $75,000 a year are twice as likely to vote and 6 times as likely to be politically active than those from families earning less than $15,000.

Close Up’s goal is to provide an outstanding civic education opportunity for all young people, one that encourages them to a lifetime of active participation. In particular, we seek to remedy the civic achievement gap by providing outreach to participants from all backgrounds and providing financial assistance to ensure our programs are available to those from economically-disadvantaged communities.

Close Up’s Impact

Our programs are transformative educational experiences for young people and their teachers and mentors. In post-program surveys of our participants:

  • 96% of teachers say that the program helps their students better understand current issues and their roles as citizens in a democracy.
  • 93% of students say that the program is effective at helping them know how to promote their own political interests.
  • 93% of students say that the program helped them understand and appreciate that others hold different opinions than their own.

"The whole community comes together to help us fundraise. All of the students will give presentations to the school board, Elks Club and Rotary Clubs that helped us get here."

   – Steve, Teacher, AK
Educating for democracy since 1971