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CitizenDetroit chosen as Knight Challenge winner for young-voter program

June 12, 2017


CitizenDetroit, a program of Wayne State University, was recently selected as one of 33 winners of the 2017 Knight Cities Challenge for its project, “Happy 18th Birthday! Local Citizenship Kit.”

The challenge attracted more than 4,500 ideas to transform the 26 communities where the John S. Knight and James L. Knight Foundation invests into more vibrant places to live and work. Innovators were asked to submit their best idea to make cities more successful.

“Happy 18th Birthday! Local Citizenship Kit” celebrates Detroiters becoming eligible to vote by sending them a local citizenship kit in the mail on their 18th birthday. The kit will include Detroit-themed gifts and an illustrated guide to local elections. A portion of the boxes will also include personal messages from a loved one encouraging them to vote.

Box recipients also will be given a birthday challenge to make their voice count, and will be directed to a website where they can find out how to register, pledge to vote in the November 2017 local elections, and sign up for reminders.

“Young people are not showing up for local elections — just 6 percent of registered 18-21 year olds voted in 2013,” said Sandra Yu Stahl, lead evaluator with CitizenDetroit. “Our goal is to celebrate young Detroiters becoming eligible to vote and dramatically increase their turnout. We want local youth to understand how local elected officials shape the neighborhoods we live in, recognize their own important role in a thriving democracy, and participate as informed voters.” 

“Selected as a winner of the 2017 Knight Cities Challenge not only speaks well of CitizenDetroit’s efforts, but also the collaborative opportunities available through Wayne State University’s faculty, students and staff,” said Irvin D. Reid, former president of Wayne State University and holder of the Eugene Applebaum Chair in Community Engagement. “Our campus community has traditionally demonstrated a spirit of civic engagement and advocacy; qualities that are tantamount to the mission of CitizenDetroit.”

“It is imperative that the young people of Detroit become actively involved as voting citizens,” said Sheila Cockrel, former City of Detroit councilwoman and adjunct faculty at Wayne State University. “From among their ranks will emerge Detroit’s future leaders and advocates for change. CitizenDetroit’s challenge award will help to accomplish the goal of mobilizing young voters.”

About the The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.

About CitizenDetroit

CitizenDetroit was established in 2012 by Irvin D. Reid, former president of Wayne State University and holder of the Eugene Applebaum Chair in Community Engagement, and Sheila Cockrel, former City of Detroit councilwoman and adjunct faculty at Wayne State University. The program became an initiative of Wayne State’s Forum on Contemporary Issues in Society as a forum for citizens from across the city to come together and engage in discussions on a variety of subjects related to the financial stress that Detroit and its citizens were experiencing. The goal of CitizenDetroit is to help residents think critically about candidates and emerging political issues — including budget, safety, transportation and other city challenges — so that they can engage more broadly in the political process and participate in elections. The program uses community-based gatherings, dialogue sessions, town hall meetings, social media and other resources to heighten residents’ knowledge of critical issues.

About Forum on Contemporary Issues in Society 

Established in 2007, FOCIS is a special initiative that focuses Wayne State University's problem-solving resources on an eclectic range of topics important to the campus community and beyond. FOCIS lectures and related events bring together the institution's teaching, research and service missions to advance the frontiers of knowledge, promote informed debate and encourage responsible citizenship in an increasingly fast-paced, interconnected and complex global society. FOCIS presents coordinated public programs, foreign-study projects, research opportunities and ongoing community dialogues addressing specific issues that confront the citizens of Detroit, the United States and the world. For more information, visit focis.wayne.edu.  

About the Eugene Applebaum Chair in Community Engagement 

The Eugene Applebaum Chair in Community Engagement was created through the generosity of alumnus Eugene Applebaum, founding chair of the Wayne State University Foundation. The Applebaum Chair is a catalyst for cooperation between the university and community organizations on issues in business and economic development, education, health, international outreach, politics and other areas. FOCIS is the Applebaum Chair's primary public platform.