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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          NEWS SERVICES
210 Pittsboro Street, Campus Box 6210
Chapel Hill, NC  27599-6210
(919) 962-2091   FAX: (919) 962-2279


Not for publication

May 7, 2003 -- No. 266

Judge, high school students to help unveil first-of-its-kind North Carolina Civic Index

Monday, May 19, 10:30 a.m.
Public announcement
Auditorium, Albert Coates Local Government Complex
215 N. Dawson St., Raleigh, N.C.

Leaders of the North Carolina Civic Education Consortium, a non-partisan partnership, will unveil the first North Carolina Civic Index, a snapshot of the stateís civic vitality, Monday, May 19, during an announcement in Raleigh. The index responds to prior national reports finding that nearly half of all Americans are completely disengaged from civic or political activities. North Carolina is the first state to develop such an index.

Index components include telephone survey responses from nearly 1,600 North Carolinians Ė 771 teen-agers ages 13 to 17, and 804 adults Ė measuring citizenship skills, knowledge, behavior and actions. The index also draws from existing information on civic behavior including voter turnout rates, charitable giving and diversity in public office.

The survey results will reveal interesting trends and contrasts between the youth and adult respondents including the role of income and race in civic engagement. Key findings will reveal details about how confident youth are in their civic skills, their knowledge of government and politics and their levels of political involvement and volunteerism. Other findings will compare youth and adult views about trust in government and organizations. Results also gauge the influence of parents and family in citizenship development and examine a link between classroom discussions on currents events and civic engagement including future voting behavior.

The pioneering study originates from the consortium, based in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hillís School of Government. A consortium work group developed the new index because the state lacked comprehensive, meaningful measures of civic engagement.

The 10:30 a.m. public announcement event will be held at the Albert Coates Local Government Complex in Raleigh. Speakers will be N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Linda M. McGee, immediate past chair of the consortiumís steering committee; Debra Henzey, consortium director; Vinson Biggs, a student at Jamesville High School in Martin County; and Jenna Lentz, a student at East Rutherford High School in Rutherford County. Speakers will be available for interviews following the announcement event.

Invitees include more than 250 consortium partners from North Carolina and beyond including state legislators, officials from the Governorís Office and the State Department of Public Instruction as well as representatives from the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, the N.C. League of Municipalities, the UNC School of Government, Carnegie Corp. of New York, which funded the youth survey, and the Smith Richardson Foundation of Connecticut, which supported the adult survey. Invitees also will attend a reception after the announcement.

The NC Civic Index will be posted at following the May 19 announcement to help community groups and local leaders plan and support civic engagement projects. Consortium officials will follow up with school officials and teachers, civic leaders, parents, youth and others to hold a series of community forums at select sites around the state this fall. The aim is to encourage local communities develop their own action plans to improve civic education in North Carolina. Details about the forums will be announced later.

The consortium already is attracting national attention. Henzey, the UNC-based director, recommended strategies to improve youth civic engagement as a featured speaker and panelist this month at The White House Forum on American History, Civics and Service in Washington, D.C. The consortium will be honored as an exemplary leadership development and civic education program at the Southern Growth Polices Board's annual conference in June. Gov. Mike Easley nominated the program for the award.

The consortium was founded in 1997 in UNCís School of Government because North Carolina leaders were concerned the state was in danger of developing a new generation of citizens unprepared to lead their communities. The non-partisan, statewide partnership involves more than 190 organizations, including schools, universities, state and local government agencies, businesses, non-profits and youths.

The consortium aims to revitalize civic education and engagement for young North Carolinians ages 5 to 18. Organizers envision a future in which all North Carolina children and youths are enthusiastically involved citizens with the knowledge, skills and confidence to participate fully in democratic life.

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UNC News Services contact: Mike McFarland, (919) 962-8593,
Civic Education Consortium contact: Debra Henzey, (919) 962-8273,