Giving Compass' Take:

• Kevin Mahnken explains how Democracy Prep sets students up for a lasting civic engagement and participation in democracy. 

• How can funders work to expand civics programs in your community? What civic education is currently being taught in your area? 

• Learn about the importance of teaching social studies to advance civic engagement.  

Work hard. Go to college. Change the world!

When Democracy Prep students stream into their classrooms each morning, their school motto follows them. It’s written on the blue and gold banners slung in their hallways, alongside packets of graded student work and on rows of university pennants. It peeks up from school-issued planners. And it’s occasionally found on pieces of the school uniform, a variegated ensemble that makes room for branded button-downs, sweatpants, ties, cardigans and vests.

Not every school can boast a mantra, but Democracy Prep chose one that leaves no ambiguity about its mission. Students (referred to as scholars) encounter all the hallmarks of the urban charter school: high expectations, a long school day, stringent disciplinary policies.

But as it has expanded from one Harlem middle school to more than 20 locations across five states, the 13-year-old network has always kept the exclamation point at the end of that third imperative clause. Unique among both charter and district schools, Democracy Prep’s institutional focus lies in preparing kids not just for the rigors of college, but also for the demands of citizenship. Through an emphasis on government and social change, as well as a heavy dose of extracurricular civic involvement, the schools seek to transform K-12 students into future voters, volunteers and activists.

In short, adults who could — and might see it as their duty to — change the world.

Read the full article about teaching democracy by Kevin Mahnken at The 74.