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The finalists for the Community Connection Power the Vote Award really stepped up their community involvement efforts by partnering with other groups and reaching out to engage those who are underrepresented in our democracy. The Leagues took up activities and highlighted issues that directly affect people in these communities in order to engage them and increase their civic participation.
We received so many excellent applications this year and we want to thank and commend all Leagues for their outstanding and innovative program work. The finalists stood out for their efforts in this award area. Please read about their projects below and use the grid to rank them in order of your favorite project.
Winners will be announced at the 2012 Convention at the Banquet on June 11, 2012.
In an effort to better connect with their community, the LWV of the Pasadena Area, CA held three public events throughout the year to celebrate their League’s 75th anniversary. The main event was in March, with over 250 attending. The organizing committee had over 30 League members, many of whom had not been regularly active, and it was a highly successful fundraiser (netting $25,000). An ice cream social targeting younger families was held in August to celebrate the 19th Amendment. In October, "She's History," a one-woman play at the local community college celebrated California's centennial of women's suffrage and had 200 in attendance (half were students).
LWV of Pasadena increased membership by 20 people and many of their not-so-active existing members became more involved in various aspects of League. LWV of Pasadena worked hard to ensure their events were diverse by working with other community groups and community members to reach individual that were not on their original mailing lists. The League’s community partners were essential in getting the word out and making these events such a huge success. The League was able to reach a number of young voters by spreading the word among the college campuses and high schools. Media coverage and photos and videos of the 75th Anniversary events were posted on the League’s website.
Using some of the funds raised through these events, the LWV of Pasadena is working on technology upgrades to ensure they have the ability to reach different audiences and to integrate all of the services and programs that they provide to the community. As the 2012 election approaches, the LWV of Pasadena is confident they will have the skills and to offer Pasadena Area residents with a wider range of opportunities to be civically involved. They expect their membership and interest from community groups in League to increase due to more visibility in the community.
The LWV of Oakland Area, MI challenged Oakland County (Detroit metropolitan area) high school students to create a Public Service Announcement for TV, radio and/or print media that focused on the opportunities an individual can take advantage of to conserve energy. Their campaign, What Can *I* Do? The Green Power of One, was kicked off in September 2010 and featured an awards ceremony in March 2011. There were 50 applicants from 9 high schools. Over 95 league members were involved as well as noted individuals from the community to act as contest judges. They had 14 media partners and 6 sponsoring businesses which helped to circulate the winning entries.
Every high school student who participated benefited from increased awareness of the importance of, and individual opportunities to, conserve energy. In turn, they educated their family and friends. The joy and enthusiasm of the winning students at the Awards Ceremony, and their questions about a topic for the following year’s competition, suggests that the seeds for a habit of civic engagement had been sown. The winning TV and radio ads were broadcast and the winning essays were published. The League tied this event around Earth Day and was able to increase media coverage to reach most of southeastern Michigan through ten TV stations (including major, local cable, and public television). The LWV of Oakland Area partnered with two high school students to create a short promotional video based on the PSAs. The students were featured with League members. The video was produced by the local cable station and it was distributed to 6 other area stations and multiple high schools. Through these efforts the LWV of Oakland Area reached numerous communities. In addition to their local media sources they leveraged Facebook and their website to get out materials including letters to teachers and guidelines for the contest.
The League of Women Voters of New York State held its 11th annual “Students Inside Albany” (SIA) conference this past April. Thirty-five high-school students, whom were selected by local Leagues from urban and rural communities in New York, participated. This conference, which is a 4-day intensive training for students, is designed to immerse them in the process by which public policy is proposed, enacted and changed in the state of New York. Albany insiders discuss the operations of NYS government including how policy is shaped and enacted. Students also observe Assembly and Senate sessions and shadow both their Assembly members and Senators.
The conference serves a diverse group of communities and populations by having student participation from areas throughout the state and from different ethnic backgrounds. It gives students not only the opportunity to learn about Albany but to interact with each other and share views and experiences. Many of the students return to their schools and their communities with the confidence and skills to become leaders. One student reported, “As a result of SIA, I started speaking with members of the League in my town and we are creating a Student membership program for any interested high school students in Somers.” Another stated, "As a result of my participation in the SIA conference, I have developed a surprisingly close relationship between myself and my local representatives… and [have] become vocal within my community about educational, environmental and budgetary policy."
The League created a Facebook page just for the group of students and they were able to discuss their successes, challenges and questions among peers and League members. This has also allowed the students to continue their friendships beyond the 4-day conference and allows them to see what issues on which they continue to have an impact.
Since 2000, the League of Women Voters of Green Bay has worked with an Immigration Settlement Program to reach immigrant voters by teaching educational segments to the Hmong/Loation/Vietnamese and Hispanic populations in their community. The League has created PowerPoints for each election year since the inception of the program. The most recent focus of these sessions has been the Voter ID law in Wisconsin.
The League received a $400 grant to educate the underserved populations about the Voter ID law. They created a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Let’s Vote” (Vamos Votar) in both English and Spanish. Each session began with a brief segment reviewing the US Government and why voting is important at all levels of government. They touched on everything from how to get an acceptable ID for voting, voter registration, and absentee ballots and how the new laws impacted the elderly and disabled as well as underserved communities. At this time they also registered new voters. They were able to reach more than 300 people about the new law.
The immigration committee led by a local League member leveraged her partnerships with other community organizations with whom the League frequently partners. They kept their audiences engaged and were able to address their questions so that everyone was informed. They used their membership and connections to other local groups to plan events and disperse information throughout the communities. They were recognized by the press in the Green Bay Press-Gazette. The League posted flyers and utilized online and ethnic media outlets to reach out to the community.