Amid the bustling gymnasiums of eight Atlanta Public Schools (APS) high schools, a sense of civic enthusiasm blossomed within the junior and senior classes through an initiative designed to inspire civic engagement and encourage voter registration.
The 2023 Delivering Democracy Tour took place from September 7 – 19 and garnered the participation of some 3,000 students in a series of game show-style activities that tested their knowledge of governance and reminded them that their voices matter and their votes count.
Each stop along the tour was spearheaded by the Youth Advisory Council (YAC), encompassing 10 motivated students from different schools who collaborated on executing initiative goals, organizing interactive events, and inspiring civic engagement among their peers.
Kicking off at Benjamin E. Mays High School, the fun-filled event drove home the central theme that “There is no Offseason for Democracy” and included entertainment by the Marching Raiders Band, the Raideretts Dancers, the cheerleading squad, and featured charismatic host, Jovan Paige and DJ Unruly.
APS Interim Superintendent Dr. Danielle Battle shared greetings on behalf of the district and stressed the importance of immersing students in civics and democracy.
“We’re excited to usher in the next generation of poll workers, political activists, and community volunteers. But but most of all, I’m thrilled that we are cultivating the next generation of lifelong voters,” Dr. Battle said.
Radaisha Henry, a 17-year-old senior at Benjamin E. Mays High School, is carrying the torch of suffrage with her fellow YAC members by modeling accountability to one’s community through leadership.
“I’m promoting civic engagement for the next tomorrow, as in us as youth,” said Henry. “A leader does not have to have a title. You are your leader. And you can always go out and make a change in your community.”
In addition to the YAC, several celebrity guests supported the Democracy Tour by recording videos or making special in-person appearances. Wild ‘N Out star and Mays alumni, DC Young Fly, attended the Mays tour stop to remind the students that he once sat in their seat and that they can achieve anything.
Other celebrity appearances during the run of the tour included DJ Khaled, Selena Gomez, and Monica, along with Harry the Hawk, Freddie the Falcon, the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders, and representatives from the Democracy Tour’s core partners, UPS and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.
Patrick Smith, Community Relations Manager for UPS, attended the Daniel McLaughlin Therrell High School tour stop to share with students the importance of using their voices to advocate for the issues that directly impact them and their community.
“They are our future leaders of tomorrow,” Smith said. “And UPS and the UPS Foundation want to make sure that we’re doing all we can to support them in advancing, not just in education but also in democracy as well.”
Culminating on National Voter Registration Day at North Atlanta High School, the Democracy tour left a lasting impression on APS students by encouraging a culture of civic responsibility and participation in the electoral process.
“I want to make sure that 100% of you— when we talk about eligibility to vote, when we think about your responsibility at the polls to go cast your ballot— that you know it is critically important for you to go out and cast a ballot and vote,” Commissioner of Constituent Services for the City of Atlanta Greg Clay said to NAHS students.
Democracy Tour organizer and president of TCG Impact, Jacoria Borders, believes celebrating civic education participation will inspire students across Atlanta to lead their communities well beyond the tour.
“Whether [they are] running for SGA, becoming a poll worker, registering to vote, volunteering, or going to an NPU meeting, we want them to be engaged and to be civic leaders now because we know that [will] indicate their civic engagement throughout their lifetime,” Borders said.
Plans to keep students engaged throughout the school year have already begun at several schools.
Dr. Andrea Walton, an instructional coach at Maynard Holbrook Jackson High School, shared the school’s ongoing voting efforts.
“We have My School Votes, which is a club. And we have two social studies teachers that sponsor that. We’ll periodically put on voting drives and do other community service activities,” Dr. Walton said.
Additionally, Mays principal Ramon Garner expressed that their future voting endeavors will include reminders and touch points as each election approaches.
“We’ll make sure that we remind students who may be 17, turning 18 to register to vote, and really put an emphasis on what they should do as citizens in the United States— and that is vote,” Garner said.
Through this non-partisan initiative, APS is ensuring students have the opportunity to engage in the democratic process as active and informed citizens.
For a photo recap of the 2023 Delivering Democracy Tour, click through the slideshow below.
To register to vote in the state of Georgia, click here.
2023 Delivering Democracy Tour photos. Photos by TCG Impact and Allison M. Slocum