IUPUC introduces iEngage, a free summer civics program for kids

February 24, 2023
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This summer IUPUC is introducing iEngage, a free weeklong camp for area students currently in grades 4-8, who will learn how to spark change for the betterment of their communities.

iEngage is one of the civics education programs offered through the IU Center on Representative Government, a non-partisan, educational institution founded by renowned former Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, to improve the public’s understanding of the role of representative government, strengthen civic engagement, and teach the skills that are essential to sustaining the nation's form of representative democracy. iEngage is modeled after a successful program started at Baylor University a decade ago.

“We’re so happy to bring this nationally-recognized program to Columbus,” said Stephanie Serriere, Ph.D., IUPUC professor of social studies education, who served as a master teacher for the iEngage program at Baylor. “We strongly believe in creating opportunities to engage young people in the democratic process, and that’s exactly what iEngage does.”  

Baylor’s iEngage graduates have shown to be more willing to stand up for causes they believe in and participate in their community, Serriere said. Additionally, iEngage won the 2022 Sandra Day O’Connor Award for the  Advancement of Civics Education, which honors an organization, court or individual (or individuals) who have promoted, inspired, improved or led an innovation or accomplishment in the field of civics education relating to the justice system.  

This summer’s program at IUPUC is co-directed by Serriere and Elizabeth Osborn, Ph.D., director of education at the Center on Representative Government. It runs from June 26 to 30, with registration opening on March 15. Each day, campers will work on tackling an issue that’s important to them, while also learning from local leaders and organizations who work to solve community issues.

There is no cost to students who participate in iEngage. In addition to the camp itself, students are provided lunch each day, transportation to and from the Foundation for Youth (FFY), and wrap-around care (if needed), to make the program as accessible as possible.

Serriere emphasized the importance of this initiative, citing declining levels of civic knowledge and awareness, as shown by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

“For decades, civics education has been deprioritized in schools across the country,” she said.

According to one recent estimate on the CSIS website, the federal government spends $54 annually per school child on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and only 5 cents per student on civic education.

IUPUC’s first iEngage program has initial funding from the Bill and Norma Perry Memorial Fund, IU’s Center on Representative Government, Rick and Alice Johnson, and Heritage Fund. In addition, iEngage partners include IU’s Political and Civic Engagement program, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation and Foundation for Youth.

To allow as many Bartholomew County students to participate as possible, IUPUC is seeking additional donors, welcoming both monetary and in-kind donations, such as lunches from local restaurants. To donate to the Columbus iEngage program, visit go.iu.edu/iengagesupport.

To learn more about iEngage, including how to get involved, visit go.iu.edu/iengage.