Horowitz: Doing Good Creates Opportunities to Do Well•
Rob Horowitz, GoLocalProv MINDSETTER™
As we struggle as a society to continue to offer broad and widely available paths to realizing the American Dream, new research highlights a strong connection between participation in public and civic affairs and individual, city and state economic success.
An active citizenry engaged in public affairs and the community has been long thought to be essential to a healthy democracy. America’s robust community and voluntary organizations have been continually sited as a noteworthy attribute, since Alexis De Tocqueville visited the United States and wrote Democracy in America in the 1830’s. And the decline of these groups has been documented and lamented in books, such as Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam.
A recent report by the organization, Opportunity Nation, argues that beyond the intrinsic value of connecting a new generation to the rights and responsibilities of self-government, youth engagement in activities and public affairs provides more opportunity and boosts the prospect of success.
Among the findings of the report, entitled, Connecting Youth and Strengthening Communities; The Data behind Civic Engagement and Economic Opportunity” are that “civic engagement – specifically volunteering and participation in a civic or service organization – is a significant predictor of economic opportunity across states.” The benefits of volunteering, according to the report, include the gaining of job-readiness and professional skills and the building of relationships and networks that often result in the opening up of new opportunities.
Just as importantly, young people who volunteer are much more likely to stay connected to work and school than young people who don’t. These positive associations are also realized for youth who participate in organized athletics and other extra-curricular activities.
Volunteering and other kinds of constructive participation play an even more important critical role in reducing disconnection in our youth in low income communities. They are an essential component of any strategy to reduce the drop-out rate. Also, civic engagement opens educational and career doors that may be otherwise closed or not apparent to low income youth.
This study establishes the importance to individual and community success of facilitating a broad variety of volunteer opportunities for our young people to become engaged in constructive and meaningful activities that immeasurably enrich their lives, expand opportunity and provided needed services. Parents, teachers, high school principles, school board members and elected officials please take note.
Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island
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