This past Tuesday was National Voter Registration Day and it got me thinking about my impact as a voter, but also about my political upbringing. Growing up as a young woman of color in Baltimore, running for office wasn't necessarily a dream of mine. It didn't have much to do with my family—the support to be whomever I wanted to be was there. But open dialogue in my direct community pertaining to young women taking political action was not present. Several decades have passed since and we find ourselves in a privileged country that has changed the face of politics—literally. We live in a society where community organizations and progressive people are thinking of everyone, including young girls. People like Dorka Keehn, the award winning conceptual artist and social entrepreneur speaking at this year's designedCOLLECTIVE, are leading the way and told us about the organization Ignite.
Ignite was founded in 2009 to build young women’s political ambition and to train them to run for office. Studies have shown that women just don’t run for office at the same rates as men—despite competence levels. And why aren’t women running as often? Because most women aren’t encouraged to. It’s been visible throughout history that women under-value their qualifications.
“That’s the reason why I started Ignite” That's Anne Moses Founder & President of Ignite. “There are programs out there to support older women and established adults, but there isn't anything to the same degree for the youth. Ignite does just that: we implement a political training program, specifically tailored to the needs of young women [I should mention that we are nonpartisan]. Our model brings the program to any community that wants it, then within that community, builds a cadre of young women who first become civically engaged, then become civic leaders, and ultimately pursue elective office.”
Anne has 20+ years of experience in social justice organizations with a career spanning non-profit, political, policy, and academic sectors, and a focus on women’s and girls’ issues. Alongside an extensive consulting practice, Anne has served as Chief Operating Officer for Emerge America, Majority Council Director for EMILY’s List, and Executive Director of GirlSource. Anne is also adjunct faculty at Mills College in Oakland, CA. "We’re all about building up women who are under represented in their community. There isn’t any other organization that focuses on this age group and I'm happy to say that Ignite is doing really well. I’m just amazed by how well we’ve done in just these three years—we have been smart about our choices as an organization and I think that explains why. But we are currently looking for a third state for 2013 [we are currently have programs in Texas and California] so if anyone wants to lead the way for that, please let us know!"
Ignite runs political and civic education and training programs that are delivered on site in California and Texas high schools, college campuses, and community organizations. They hire and train Ignite college students to deliver the program in high schools with an overall strategy across both efforts is to personalize the political in everything they do. —Motivating young women to take civic and political leadership in their own communities. Central to the Ignite model is introducing female candidates and elected officials to our participants, so they can learn first-hand what it is like to run for and hold elective office.
This past March, during their annual Ignite Conference, they featured a congressional speaker and a round-table lunch with over two dozen other female elected officials. This year they look forward to another conference this spring highlighting another exceptional speaker (who may or may not be someone well-know)! If you want to be involved in their conference, volunteer efforts, or would like to donate, click here.
Paige has long been interested in civic responsibility and leadership and was fortunate to attend Girl's State as a High School student. That helped set her course as an adult. Emerge is paving the way for more involvement and awareness and therefor shaping our political landscape. Next week, she will be one of many women attending this year's Emerge America's Trailblazer luncheon, inducing co-founders Dorka Keehn and Marya Stark into Emerge Leaders Circle. Honorary key-note will be conducted by former US Ambassador & Governor, Madeleine Kunin.