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Caroline Avery, PPS ’22, is looking to create a new generation of civic leaders through her PEP Fellows project. The PEP Fellows program, an undergraduate experience offered through the Hart Leadership Program and Polis, provides students with resources to explore democracy in depth. This past year, students in the PEP Fellows program took on the “Democracy Challenge,” to address a democracy issue in a real-world context.  For Avery, that challenge was youth civic involvement.

In her project pitch, Avery explained that while young people are capable of incredible political organization and accomplishment, “a lack of information and practical knowledge can make the thought of political engagement daunting and overwhelming for those of us who do not know where to start.”

After dissecting this problem, Avery came up with the idea of creating an education toolkit specifically designed for young people. “A High Schooler’s Guide to Political Engagement,” prepared by Avery with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, lays out the complexities of civic engagement and activism in a clear, concise and easy-to-comprehend manner, addressing questions like “What is political engagement?” “Why is it important?” and most importantly, “Where do I start?”

Caroline Avery smiles at the camera, with a city in the background
Caroline Avery, PPS'22

The 25-page guide contains definitions, real-world examples of student and youth activists, deliberate action steps and links to specific organizations and groups where students can start their engagement journeys.

“I would like to address this challenge by helping other young people identify realistic ways in which they can meaningfully engage in politics and democracy work,” said Avery.

Her guide is honest, making sure to inform young people of the potential risks that come with political activism. The guide is also inclusive, encouraging youth from any background to grow in civic participation. The guide states clearly in its term definitions: “Political engagement is a broad term that includes a range of actions with enough room for everyone to share their voice, no matter how young or inexperienced.”

Avery is dedicated to empowering young people and helping them realize that political engagement is not something reserved for the famous youth activists visible in the media.

“I would like to give young people more diverse and ordinary representations of youth political engagement by introducing them to ‘everyday’ people who consistently engage with political issues in different ways,” Avery said. Her guide identifies the simple pathways for ordinary people to become leaders for the causes they care about, as in her own case.

The PEP Fellows program enabled Avery to share her passion for political engagement and activism with students everywhere and provide them with the resources to make changes.