Empowering Our Youth to Strengthen Our Democracy
2021 No. 3

We just wrapped up our fourth session of the Students for Justice Internship Program. Since our launch on July 1, 2020, we have had 275 paid college student interns work to get out the vote. What a milestone moment!  

This session, our interns engaged in outreach to potential voters in Virginia’s communities of color through postcards, phone banking, text banking, and carefully designed ads on social media. They had the satisfaction of seeing voter turnout among African Americans in the counties we targeted reach record high levels. The lesson that our interns learned? VOTER OUTREACH WORKS!!! They’re hooked, and many say they plan to stay involved in this work. Some even say they are now planning careers in politics, whether as candidates, as consultants, or in other roles.  

Through our emphasis on recruiting most of our interns from historically Black colleges and universities in the South, our internship is creating a cohort of young leaders in the fight for voting rights within the communities that are most affected by voter suppression. And because teaching leadership skills is a priority for us, we have created a way for selected interns to get additional coaching in these skills. We’d like to introduce you to our new Team Manager Program, profiled in this newsletter. Read on!

With hope for our democracy,
Claire Ullman
Sandra Radoff
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Promoting Stars: Our New Team Manager Program
The newest and most exciting feature of Students for Justice’s evolving curriculum is the Team Manager Program. This program provides a pathway to promotion for star interns and effectively taps into one of the most valuable resources we have – our dedicated volunteer mentors.   

This fall, our interns worked in teams of four, each led by a Team Manager, to create paid social media ads to persuade people to vote in Virginia’s statewide election. We recruited our eight Team Managers for the role based on their outstanding performance in our spring session. They guided their teams through the process of finalizing an ad and helped them to navigate the challenges of the internship more generally.

To learn the leadership skills necessary to manage peers, these Team Managers were enrolled in a special leadership curriculum run by two remarkable volunteers: Abby Jennis, who most recently served as Associate General Counsel of the City University of New York, and Phil Meeks, who recently retired from his role as Executive Vice President and President of Spectrum Business Enterprise at Charter Communications. The Team Managers met with Abby and Phil weekly in a group to discuss the challenges of leadership, including how to run an effective meeting and how to deal with struggling team members. They also each met regularly with either Abby or Phil for one-on-one coaching.  

The Team Managers got a tremendous amount out of this experience. They have told us that it was hard at first to exercise authority within a group of people the same age as them, but that with support from Abby and Phil they developed the confidence to lead. They also learned to set agendas for meetings and stick to them, and to facilitate discussions so that all voices are heard. They grew personally and professionally over the course of the session, and now feel ready to take on new leadership challenges. [Watch the video above to hear more!]

As we look ahead to 2022, we hope to extend and expand this program. If we secure sufficient funding, we will enroll eight Team Managers in the summer session and 16 in the fall as part of our larger goal of having 120 interns total in 2022. We are currently one third of the way to that fundraising goal.
Want to make a difference?
The on-going success of the internship program has been made possible by the COVID-friendly fundraising we’ve been doing, with more than 25 virtual house parties held this fall and last spring. (Thank you to our AMAZING house party hosts for pulling their friends together on Zoom to learn more and help raise funds for these paid internships!) Click here to attend, host, or learn more about a house party.

P.S. Help us reach more people! Please forward this newsletter to everyone you know who might want to help young people save our democracy.
Ruther Glen, VA
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