BY STACI WILSON
The Pennsylvania Department of State recently honored Blue Ridge High School for efforts that led to voter registration of more than 88 percent of the school’s eligible students.
“I am thrilled that more than 2,900 high school students across Pennsylvania have participated in the Governor’s Civic Engagement Award program this first year,” said Jessica Myers, deputy director of policy. “I hope Blue Ridge High School’s performance will encourage other schools in the area to participate next year.”
Myers said Blue Ridge was one of only 15 schools to achieve the award this year.
She told the students that in the past election only about 28 percent of 18-19 year olds voted. “They are making the decisions for the rest of the 18-19 year olds,” she said.
Myers encouraged the students to stay remain engaged in the political process. “Local and state elections impact your day-to-day life,” she said. She also noted that the average age of poll workers is 74-1/2 and people of all ages were needed to in those positions.
Myers was joined at Blue Ridge High School on Thursday by Sen. Lisa Baker and Rep. Jonathan Fritz, who both commended the students on their efforts.
Sen. Baker encouraged the students to take their civic engagement to the next level and be an active participant and informed voter. “You’re going to make a difference for all of us,” she said.
Rep. Fritz – who first ran for mayor at the age of 26 – talked about low voter turnout for elections and said it was especially important for voters in rural areas to have a strong turnout in order to have their voices heard. “You are the ambassadors for that message,” he said.
“I am very proud of our students and their AP government teacher, Alicia Ross, for taking the initiative to promote the importance of civic engagement and taking the steps to become a registered voter,”
Superintendent Matthew Button said. “The Blue Ridge School District is honored to receive the Governor’s Civic Engagement Award for achieving 88.6% of eligible students registering to vote.”
The award is a cooperative effort by the Departments of Education and State, in collaboration with Inspire U.S., a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to transform young leaders’ inspiration into action. The program offers resources and guidance for student leaders as they educate their peers regarding the electoral process and the importance of civic engagement.
Qualification for the award is measured by the percentage of voter registrations among a school’s eligible student population. Students may register to vote if they are 18 years of age or will turn 18 on or before the date of the next primary, special, municipal, or general election.
Schools that attain 85-percent voter registration among their eligible student population will qualify for the Gold Level award, while those that register 65 percent will be honored with the Silver Level award. Blue Ridge High School achieved 88.6-percent registration of eligible students.
The Governor’s Civic Engagement Award was instituted at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. Since then, 16 schools have qualified for the award.
High schools can sign up directly with Inspire U.S., which will support student leaders as they coordinate peer-to-peer voter registration drives and efforts to get out the vote. Inspire U.S. also assists with materials and data management, and in organizing school celebrations and recognition events.
More information about the award is available on the Department of State website.
For more information on voter registration, please call the Department of State’s toll-free hotline at 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772) or visit votesPA.com.