Representatives of Florida Legislature to announce new partnership between USF St. Petersburg and the YMCA to Improve Civics Literacy in Florida

July 12, 2018

USF St. Petersburg (USFSP) and the Florida YMCA are partnering to create a new Civics Fellows Program set to launch in the summer of 2019. The new program, made possible by the Florida Legislature, will provide scholarships for 75 Florida high school students. Participants will earn up to six college credits in politics and leadership at USFSP, while gaining hands-on experience in government and public service. Representatives of the Florida Legislature will announce the new program on July 19 at 3 p.m. at USF St. Petersburg, Lynn Pippenger Hall.

“We believe that all Florida students should have essential knowledge about how their government works to become truly engaged citizens,” said State Representative Chris Sprowls. “Even more, this program will show the next generation that public service is an honorable field and mold the future leaders of our state.”

Improving civics literacy in Florida has been a longtime goal of the Florida Legislature. During the 2018 legislative session, state leaders approved funding to support the new program, which aims to enhance civic education among high school students. It’s part of a larger focus by lawmakers to strengthen civic literacy in Florida.

“The Civics Fellows Program is another example of the Florida Legislature’s strong commitment to improve civic literacy and expand educational opportunities for all students in our state,” State Representative James Grant said.

“This innovative partnership will give Florida high school students a head start on earning college credits while providing them with the experience and tools they need to become civic-minded individuals – all at no cost to the student,” said State Senator Jeff Brandes.

The program is expected to grow from 75 students in its first year to 150 in its second year. The curriculum will include a week-long Summer Civics Institute designed to instill a better understanding of state and local government and gives students an opportunity to experience being part of a university community.

“By partnering with the YMCA through the Civics Fellows Program, we our enhancing our ability to deepen students’ knowledge of American democracy and improve civil discourse,” said Martin Tadlock, USF St. Petersburg Interim Regional Chancellor.

The partnership is an expansion of the YMCA’s Youth In Government (YIG) program. For more than 60 years, YIG has provided civics and character education to middle and high school students with an emphasis on direct experiences and service learning.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for our Youth In Government students to get civics education in a university setting,” said John Trombetta, CEO for the Florida State Alliance of YMCAs. “This will be the first of its kind and we’re ecstatic it is happening in Florida.”

The overall goals of the Civics Fellows Program include the following:

  • Deepening understanding of government and its impact
  • Improving civic engagement by the next generation of leaders
  • Increasing rates of millennials participating in important societal institutions including volunteering, voting and school events
  • Providing hands-on experiences in government and public service
  • Providing an university experience to high school students through a summer institute program

“Bolstering this generation’s civic literacy, particularly concerning local and state government, is vital to maintaining and strengthening the foundation of our democracy,” said Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan, USFSP Political Science Professor and Coordinator of the new program. “This opportunity to explore ideas and engage in healthy debate will provide these students with critical skills in their development as our future voters and policymakers.”