Responsible Technology Youth Power Fund – Episode 12 of 12
Steam Connection and Young People’s Alliance
SGUK Episode 116
The STEAM Connection is dedicated to a vital mission: ensuring that young minds have access to technical education by harnessing the transformative potential of robotics. However, our purpose goes beyond mere instruction. We are a collective of underrepresented individuals, members of the youth, who never had the privilege of seeing ourselves reflected in the media during our formative years. By amplifying our narratives and sharing our unique experiences, we aim to inspire every young person who shares our background to recognize that they too belong in this world. Indigenous youths deserve access to culturally responsive + accessible technical education
one robot at a time
Building The Future
One Step at a Time
The STEAM Connection is on a mission to make technical education accessible for youth through the power of robotics.
Indigenous youths deserve access to culturally responsive + accessible technical education.
Free EKGAR robots sent
Youths reached with our representative educational resources
Users making robots on our virtual learning platform
Designed by youth for youth for free
Designing, manufacturing, and distributing leading robotic solutions and giving them away for free.
By us for us. Community built and led by youth who represent our students.
Paving the way for Indigenous youths to become innovators.
Robots for the future.
In 2019, Ojibwe teen Danielle Boyer created The STEAM Connection, a minority and youth-led charity that has reached hundreds of thousands of children with technical education with an emphasis on language revitalization. The STEAM Connection focuses on the future: ushering in a new age of education via personal and wearable robotics, ethical artificial intelligence systems, and augmented reality. Informed by the past and present, The STEAM Connection utilizes traditional knowledge to uplift and protect Indigenous communities.
- Verizon Forward for Good Challenge Winner for biodegradable robots
- Our founder is a Teen Vogue Indigenous Youth Changemaker
- Our founder is a two-time guest of the White House
- A 2x MIT Solve Winning Team
- 2023 Echoing Green Fellow and MIT Solve Gender Equity Finalist
Technical education isn’t accessible
Understanding the disparities
Technical education is crucial for Indigenous communities, as it promotes self-determination, empowers tech career opportunities, and overcomes systemic barriers. Despite facing challenges like limited computer and internet access, lack of role models, high dropout rates, and underrepresentation in STEM, technical education can bridge the digital divide, enhance career prospects, and assert control over technological development. It empowers Indigenous communities by addressing disparities, amplifying voices, and fostering inclusion in the tech world.
What we’re doing
We create representative and culturally-responsive technical education that we distribute through our own educational programs as well as educational institutions and companies serving Indigenous youths. We design everything in-house and focus on robotics that are affordable and teach Indigenous languages. Our robots overcome many accessibility barriers and work without WiFi, are made from recycled resources, and are completely free to students. We also create representative comics, art, apps, campaigns, and work to advocate for our communities in technology.
We’ve been featured by Teen Vogue, the Smithsonian, PEOPLE Magazine, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, NBC, CBS News, NPR, ABC News, Good Morning America ABC, Hulu, L’Oreal Paris, Adobe, Yahoo, Tech Crunch, The Daily Beast, Verizon, Instagram, Glamour, Upworthy News, Zoom, MIT Solve, EdTech, and many more.
Our founder Danielle Boyer has 13.7k followers on Instagram and 14.4k on TikTok.
We are available for interviews. Contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries.
Here at The STEAM Connection, we are fueled by the power of robots. We donate robots, develop robots that you’ve never seen before, and offer free robotics learning.
Why? Because we believe in the power of robots and what they can do for our youth! Our robots are developed by youth for youth, and we know that robots can change our world for the better.
It’s more than that though. Education in technology enables economic development, connectivity, and innovation. Technical skills are becoming increasingly more important in all areas, but underserved youth are getting left behind. When not exposed to essential educational programming focused on robotics, digital design, and coding, it is near impossible to break into the most influential fields and also to progress as a professional in nearly every industry.
Educational robotics strengthen and support students’ skills in developing their knowledge through the creation, design, assembly, and operation of robots. They are project-based, teach a variety of important skills, and youth love them. They are truly the gateway to equitable technical learning.
So, we focus on making robots accessible because it’s what we believe in. Will you join us on our journey?
Robots are educational tools of the future and our youth deserve to be able to access them. We created an accessible and affordable robot to make it happen.
When our young founder saw how much robots cost and how many students in her community couldn’t access technical education, she developed Every Kid Gets a Robot (EKGAR) when she was just 18-years-old. She firsthand experienced the barriers that existed in getting kids into science and tech, especially within her own Indigenous community. She knew something had to change, so she opened her engineering design software and started creating.
Education in technology enables economic development, connectivity, and innovation. Technical skills are becoming more important in all areas, but our youth are getting left behind. When not exposed to essential educational programming focused on robotics, digital design, and coding, it is near impossible to break into the most influential fields. Educational robotics strengthen and support students’ technical skills in a project based and fun way through the creation, design, assembly, and operation of robots.
So we created an affordable option named EKGAR. EKGAR is a robotics kit that increases educational accessibility for youth. It costs less than 20 USD to manufacture and is sent to youth for free to teach key technical skills in everything from reading wiring diagrams to coding with a culturally competent curriculum. It consists of four one-of-a-kind 3D printed components and low cost ESP32 technology. It’s simple to manufacture, and we make the bots with recycled plastic. As of Spring 2022, we started providing a Starter Kit that focuses on basic assembly and electrical engineering skills that costs less than $11 USD to make.
Our robots get sent to educational institutions and organizations with an emphasis on Indigenous communities with class sets that are sponsored by our corporate partners. We provide robots for grades K-12 but emphasize middle school youth. 96% of our robots have been sent to Indigenous youths.
EKGAR has proven itself to be a solution of the future, reaching over 33,000 youths and educators, significantly increasing students’ technical understanding , and influencing 90% of users to want to pursue a STEM career. We also have a virtual learning Make-A-Robot platform for users to make their own robots.
Let’s build the future together. One robot at a time.
Our founder, Danielle Boyeris a two-time guest, three time invitee of the White House to speak at the MTV Youth Action Forum and participant in the Tribal Youth Forum (2022). She was an invited guest by the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden.
- Echoing Green Fellow (2023)
- National STEM Festival STEMbassador (2023/24)
- MIT Solve Gender Equity in STEM Finalist (2023) – Alexandra Villanueva (Teen Ambassador) & Danielle Boyer
- NDN Collective Changemaker Fellow (2023)
- Teen Vogue Indigenous Youth Changemaker (2022)
- MIT Solve Indigenous Communities Fellow (2021)
- Verizon Forward for Good Winner (2021)
- VentureWell Sustainable Impact Award (2022)
- PEOPLE Magazine’s Girls Changing the World (2020)
- L’Oreal Paris Woman of Worth (2020)
- EdTech IT Influencer (2022)
- Brower Youth Award Winner by Earth Island Institute for environmental activism (2020)
- ASA Prize for Equitable Education (2021)
- Governor’s Service Awards: Volunteer of the Year (2019)
- The Big Idea by MIT Solve x HP: An award-winning docu-series on three women innovators. “Indigenous Robotics” followed my life for a year and premiered at the MIT Museum and is currently showing at film festivals and is hosted by Glamour magazine (2023)
- In The Know Yahoo TV Show Episode (2023)
- Women of Worth NBC Special by L’Oreal Paris x NBC on Hulu
- Winds of Change Cover Story for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society
2021 Verizon Forward for Good Challenge Winner for biodegradable robots
Our founder is a Teen Vogue Indigenous Youth Changemaker
Our founder is a two-time invitee of the White House
MIT Solve Indigenous Communities Fellowship Winner
L’Oreal Paris Woman of Worth Award Winner for women-led nonprofits
Our headquarters is located in Troy MI USA. For more information, reach out at email@example.com.
My name is Danielle Boyer and I’m a girl who makes robots and gives them all away! I created The STEAM Connection when I was 18-years-old and tired of how inaccessible technical education was and still is. Growing up, I firsthand saw how a lack of technical educational opportunities set youths back. Sadly, it is an all too common experience for many youths. I saw the power that robots had to change our world for the better, but also saw how expensive and inaccessible they were. I want all youths to have access to quality technical educational resources. Education in technology enables economic development, connectivity, and innovation. It is more than that, though, it is making sure that every youth has an equal opportunity to engage in our modern and tech-driven world.
When I joined a robotics team in high school, I did not fit in. I felt like I had to fight for respect that I’d never receive as a girl who loves robots. I created my organization because every child deserves to have a safe place to learn and grow and because STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education should be accessible to all youths.
Here at The STEAM Connection, we tackle these issues by developing, manufacturing, and distributing accessible high-quality, unique, and culturally competent technical educational resources with an emphasis on robotics. We are youth and minority run and focus on serving Indigenous youths like myself. Our goal is to reduce inequities that prevent many minorities and girls from pursuing science and technology careers and to enable every young mind to be empowered through STEM to create the change that they want to see in our world.
Why is our work vital? The current lack of diversity in STEM, through race and gender, is a larger disparity than many realize. Our work continues to bring awareness to these gaps and to help close them, creating a greatly more diverse community in STEM.
Together we can create the future that we want to see. Join us on our journey.
Miigwech (thank you) and with love,
Founder, The STEAM Connection
Technical education holds significant importance for Indigenous communities as it plays a crucial role in promoting self-determination, fostering opportunities in tech careers, and empowering individuals to find their voice. Unfortunately, Indigenous peoples face systemic barriers that limit our access to technological resources, making the need for technical education even more critical. Additionally, students also often feel uncomfortable pursuing STEM careers due to various reasons, including historical and ongoing marginalization, lack of representation, cultural barriers, and limited resources. These factors can contribute to a sense of exclusion and create a hostile environment for Indigenous individuals in STEM fields.
An overview of the disconnect:
- Access to Computers: Indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by the digital divide. In rural Native communities, only 9% of households have personal computers, and even fewer have Internet access (National Congress of American Indians). Computer access for most Natives is outside the home.
- Internet Access: 18% of tribal reservation residents have no internet access at home, wireless or land-based (American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University).
- Role Models:
- Indigenous peoples make up only 0.4% of the engineering workforce (Northern Arizona University).
- The STEM workforce is 72% male (Society of Women Engineers).
- Only 33% of workers in STEM careers are non-white (Pew Research Center).
- Dropout Rates: Indigenous students have the highest dropout rate in the U.S. (U.S. Department of Education’s Indian Nations at Risk Task Force.
- STEM Divide: “STEM is not available to all learners” – The White House.
Given these challenges, technical education becomes a vital tool for empowering Indigenous communities. By providing access to culturally responsive technology, training, and resources, it helps bridge the digital divide and equips individuals with the skills needed to thrive now. Technical education also opens doors to career opportunities in the tech sector, where Indigenous voices and perspectives are often underrepresented. The lack of diverse perspectives hampers the progress of scientific research, limits innovation, and undermines efforts to address the unique challenges faced by Indigenous communities. It is essential to create inclusive and supportive environments in STEM education and workplaces, recognizing and valuing the contributions of Indigenous peoples. Moreover, technical education fosters self-determination by allowing Indigenous communities to assert control over our own technological development. It enables us to address specific needs and challenges we face, promoting community resilience and self-sufficiency.
In summary, technical education plays a pivotal role in empowering Indigenous communities by addressing disparities in access to technology, providing opportunities for career growth, and promoting self-determination. By equipping Indigenous individuals with the necessary skills and resources, we can help bridge the digital divide, amplify our voices, and foster greater inclusion in the ever-evolving world of technology.
A free pocket sized learning tool for BIPOC middle school girls using representative superheroes, fusing augmented reality with applied technical education with culturally responsive and holistic gamified modules. This initiative is youth-led!
A 2023 MIT Solve Gender Equity in STEM Challenge Winner with $100k+ in funding from Tiger Global Impact Ventures.
Immersive educational environments at your fingertips.
Exciting STEM modules that you can place in your real world environment. It’s your very own mind palace, a place where you can visualize new concepts in a way that you remember through engaging and relatable modules led by real-women superheroes. Use your phone and dive into learning.
Tap to play videos. Example lessons in robotics based on our award-winning robot Every Kid Gets a Robot, Indigenous language learning with our robot sidekick, and Salvadoran plants.
Centering all of YOU.
“I’ve always been pushed to pursue STEM and to study hard, but that’s where it stops! Nobody checks on how we’re doing! STEM needs to be holistic. That’s why, after each lessons, we have mental health exercises made with experts. When you complete them, you earn a superpower! My favorite are the breathing exercises. I feel like all of ME matters.”
–Alexandra Villanueva, Youth Lead
88% Of users self-identify as girls. 350k+ Users during a month of Beta testing. 75% Of users are ages 20 and younger. $145k+ In funding received to build out this initiative.
This project is a MIT Solve Gender Equity in STEM challenge winner and received $100k in funding. We’ve also received funding from Zoom Cares, MTV, and Pinterest for mental health initiatives. Upon polling our users, 94% said that our app boosted their comfort in pursuing STEM and 87% would make it their go-to for STEM learning.
Accompanying our award-winning curriculum serving 800k+ youths here at The STEAM Connection. Super Sisters is hosted on our Make-A-Robot virtual learning platform for educators to use in the classroom.
We make this work through augmented reality.
AR is like magic because it simplifies hard concepts that many youth struggle with. AR works by putting digital things onto the real world around you. Thanks to computer vision, you can see things that you wouldn’t normally, and can master tough concepts.
The global AR educational market is expected to rise from $3.5 billion dollars to over $56 billion dollars in the next ten years.
Super Sisters is a free pocket sized learning tool for BIPOC middle school girls. By integrating augmented reality with applied technical education, the app offers immersive and culturally responsive learning experiences. Through the use of augmented reality technology, users can engage with interactive gamified modules encompassing robotics, language, culture, and more, all seamlessly blending into their real-world surroundings with a simple act of holding up their phone.
Our modules have lessons on how to introduce yourself in Indigenous languages, building robots virtually, stories of real women role models in STEM, traditional architecture, Indigenous plants, and so much more. The app is guided by illustrated BIPOC women superheroes who reward users for learning. As users progress through the app, they are prompted to complete mental health exercises on subjects ranging from breathing exercises to culturally responsive ways of healing. This creates a holistic approach to STEM education that embraces the whole user.
Our resources are hosted on our The Make-A-Robot Virtual Learning Platform, full of culturally responsive educational resources geared towards Indigenous educators and youths with over 34k users. These resources accompany our award-winning robotics educational resources focused on Indigenous language revitalization and STEM learning. They focus on our student-driven learning goals focused on uplifting and centering Indigenous and overall BIPOC communities.
“When I look at STEM subjects, specifically my interest in computer science, I don’t see a lot of people like me. My name is Alexandra Villanueva. I am a first-generation Salvadoran, 14 years old, and am a girl. STEM learning resources are not created by people from my community, are hard to relate to, and often don’t focus on my mental health and wellbeing. Technical education holds significant importance for BIPOC communities as it plays a crucial role in promoting self-determination, fostering opportunities in tech careers, and empowering individuals to find their voice. Unfortunately, our people face systemic barriers that limit our access to technological resources, making the need for technical education even more critical. So I created Super Sisters.” –Alexandra Villanueva, Youth Ambassador.
Of girls don’t know a woman in a STEM profession. [a]
Of the STEM workforce is male. [b]
Of workers in STEM careers are non-white. [c]
Of middle school girls express an interest in STEM. [d]
Statistic explanations and sources:
Our initiative primarily serves BIPOC middle school girls who are underrepresented in STEM and is led and guided by a first generation Salvadorian teen girl. To understand the needs of our target population, our solution is designed by youth for youth. It is also women-led. This initiative is entirely youth-led and developed. We are a team of Indigenous and Chicano inventors, developers, and youths working to create solutions for our communities. Our solution addresses the needs of BIPOC middle school girls by offering culturally responsive content and representation. The app showcases real relatable role models through illustrated BIPOC women scientists and engineers who serve as mentors, providing guidance and sharing their experiences. By incorporating mental health resources, such as breathing techniques and mindfulness exercises, we also prioritize the holistic well-being of the girls, empowering them to develop resilience and manage stress. Through our solution, BIPOC middle school girls will have access to engaging and relevant educational materials, relatable role models, and mental health support. This will help bridge the representation gap in STEM, inspire their interest and confidence in pursuing STEM subjects, and equip them with the skills and knowledge needed for future success. Ultimately, our solution aims to empower and uplift the lives of BIPOC middle school girls, opening doors to opportunities and promoting diversity and inclusivity in the field of technology.
This app was conceptualized and created by Alexandra Villanueva Salvadoran (Youth Ambassador), Danielle Boyer Ojibwe (Inventor, Founder), Lucid Skies LLC – a Youth & Chicano Run Design Studio, and has been informed by students and community members for The STEAM Connection.
Try our demo.
A special demo where you can try a Super Sisters robotics module without downloading anything! This is so you can get a feel of our Super Sisters interface and have an idea of what AR and education looks like.
This is a student-led initiative, hosted by The STEAM Connection and created with Lucid Skies, LLC.
“My name is Alexandra Villanueva. I am 14 years old and I am a first generation Salvadoran American. I love computer science, and I want to make STEM learning safe, holistic, and fun for girls like me. Super Sisters: STEM Superheroes is a women and youth led solution focused on BIPOC middle school girls. This solution is created with The STEAM Connection and Lucid Skies, LLC as the team lead and youth ambassador. They are working to make technology accessible to underrepresented communities with culturally representative experiences, and I’m working with them to reach girls with STEM learning resources. Our unique collaboration allows us to create solutions targeted to young BIPOC girls. My role is to lead this solution with the guidance and support of The STEAM Connection, their mentors, and my family.” -Alexandra Villanueva, Youth Ambassador.
About the Partners:
The STEAM Connection team: The STEAM Connection is a 501(c)(3) charity creating equitable and innovative learning solutions for Indigenous youths with robots that they design, manufacture, and give away for free. They are a minority and youth-led charity that has reached 600k+ youths with technical education with an emphasis on language revitalization since 2019. The STEAM Connection focuses on the future: ushering in a new age of education via personal and wearable robotics, artificial intelligence systems, and augmented reality.
“Youth are at the forefront of our work, and many of our initiatives are student created and led. Our students are on the ground creating solutions that they resonate with to benefit our communities. All of our youth leads are BIPOC women and girls.”-Danielle Boyer, Founder.
The Lucid Skies team: Lucid Skies, LLC is a Chicano, family-owned, and youth led mixed reality design firm. They use augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence to empower and uplift communities.
“We are a team of artists and engineers envisioning the collective future of our people. Mixing creativity with technology, our mission is to bring mixed reality to communities that have been underrepresented. From the incredible architectural masterpieces of the Mesoamerican cities to the complex system of calendars that mapped the stars, our people have always created technologies that were works of art. We believe in the notion that we are not people who are merely consumers of technology, but we are actively combining our work ethic, wisdom, and intelligence to create our future.” -Lucid Skies, LLC.
This initiative stands out as an innovative tool in education by harnessing the power of augmented reality (AR) technology. AR is a relatively new and untapped tool in the educational realm, and we are at the forefront of leveraging its potential to enhance learning experiences. Our app combines interactive modules with augmented reality technology, creating immersive and engaging learning experiences. This unique blend of technology and educational content offers a novel way for students to interact with and comprehend STEM concepts, fostering deeper understanding and long-term engagement.
Why another app? According to the Child Mind Institute, “42% of kids have a phone by age 10. By age 12, its 71%.” Kids are on their phones, their attention spans are shorter, and they often relate to the world through social media. When we conducted a survey with Indigenous middle and high school students on how they learn best, 82% mentioned the words “phone” or “social media”. Creating a free immersive application that provides accurate representation, engaging exercises, and mental health resources for BIPOC youths to utilize in the classroom or at home will help us make STEM learning more approachable and fun. Our solution is designed to address the lack of representation and engagement in applied technology education for BIPOC girls. By providing relatable role models, personalized learning experiences, and integrating mental health practices, we aim to empower and inspire these girls to excel in STEM fields, fostering inclusivity and diversity in technology education.
The core technology: The core technologies that power our mobile app are augmented reality (AR) and machine learning, specifically computer vision. These technologies work together to create an immersive and interactive learning experience for students.
Augmented reality is employed to enhance the app by overlaying digital objects onto the real-world environment captured through the camera of mobile devices. This enables students to visualize and interact with virtual objects in their own physical space. Unlike traditional static textbook learning, AR brings concepts to life and allows students to engage with technology in a more tangible and practical way. For example, they can see a virtual robot on their desk, drive it around, dismantle it, examine each component, and reassemble it. This real/digital world interaction facilitates a deeper understanding of complex concepts, and students can actively participate in simulated experiments and project-based modules. The use of augmented reality on modern mobile devices, similar to popular applications like TikTok and Instagram filters, enables seamless integration of virtual objects into the real world.
Machine learning, specifically computer vision, plays a crucial role in our app. It enables mobile devices to detect and recognize objects such as tables, floors, and people within the camera feed. This object detection capability allows for virtual objects to interact with the physical reality captured by the camera. For instance, our app can simulate physics-based scenarios where a robot needs to withstand a specific amount of force during a drop. As the student drives the virtual robot off their own table, the app utilizes machine learning to understand the height of the drop and identify the table and floor. This information is then used to provide an intuitive visualization of the forces at play, such as displaying arrows representing acceleration and velocity. Through these simulations, students can gain a practical understanding of the forces involved and witness the visual representation of these forces in action.
By harnessing the power of augmented reality and machine learning, our app enables students to have a more engaging and experiential learning journey. They can visualize, manipulate, and interact with technology concepts in a way that goes beyond passive reading or memorization. The combination of these technologies fosters a deeper understanding of applied technology principles, enhances critical thinking skills, and encourages creativity and exploration.
An overview of the STEM disconnect for young BIPOC girls:
- [a] According to “Closing the STEM Gap” by Microsoft, girls are more likely to show interest in STEM subjects and pursue STEM careers when they have access to educational materials that feature relatable role models and highlight the relevance of STEM to their own lives. However, 64% of girls don’t know a woman in STEM profession.
- [b] The STEM workforce is 72% male (Society of Women Engineers).
- [c] Only 33% of workers in STEM careers are non-white (Pew Research Center).
- [d] 74% of middle school girls express an interest in engineering, science, and math, but only 0.4% choose computer science as a major when they get to college. Reported by Girls Who Code.
- STEM Divide: “STEM is not available to all learners” – The White House.
Given these challenges, technical education becomes a vital tool for empowering our communities. By providing access to culturally responsive technology, training, and resources, it helps bridge the digital divide and equips individuals with the skills needed to thrive now. Technical education also opens doors to career opportunities in the tech sector, where our voices and perspectives are often underrepresented. The lack of diverse perspectives hampers the progress of scientific research, limits innovation, and undermines efforts to address the unique challenges faced by our communities. It is essential to create inclusive and supportive environments in STEM education and workplaces, recognizing and valuing the contributions of our people. Moreover, technical education fosters self-determination by allowing our communities to assert control over our own technological development. It enables us to address specific needs and challenges we face, promoting community resilience and self-sufficiency.
PS from Ivy. There is so much more on the Steam Connection website. Lots more Robots to see and learn about the development and the experiences to date. A website you will need to visit more than once, to take in all that is being done here.
- The STEAM Connection is on a mission to make technical education accessible for Indigenous youths through the power of culturally responsive robotics.
Young People’s Alliance
We are a student-led movement advocating for change on issues that affect young people and getting our generation out to vote.
We are a youth advocacy nonprofit founded and led entirely by college students. As students, we’ve seen firsthand how young people are excluded from the political conversation. To bridge that gap, we mobilize young people to achieve electoral and policy outcomes that will center youth perspectives and achieve long-term change.
The Young People’s Alliance was founded by Sam Hiner and Mick Tobin when they were high school students. They jumped into advocacy after coming up with state legislation to stop partisan power grabs. While they were able to contribute to advocacy on other issues, like ending child marriage and protecting teens on the road, their own legislative ideas were not taken seriously.
Sam and Mick realized the danger of this lack of youth power. With their perspectives not being seriously considered, issues affecting young people wouldn’t be solved in ways that actually solved the problems faced by young people. Since young people felt dismissed from the political process, more and more became disengaged from it, posing a risk to our democracy. To change this narrative, Sam and Mick started the Young People’s Alliance to give young people a real voice in the political process and to encourage long-lasting civic engagement.
Our teams on Capitol Hill, in state legislatures, and across 9 college campuses work to empower young people in politics. We engage and mobilize students through voter registration and mobilization events, hosting community events to connect students to the political world, and advocating for youth issues on campus. We also build relations with legislators and other non-profits to include young people’s perspectives in the law-making process. Learn more about the impact we’ve had on college campuses through our Campus Organizing and at the state and federal capitols through our Advocacy.
Our campus teams work at 9 universities across North Carolina to engage and mobilize students, while also advocating for youth issues on campus.
We begin to civically engage students long before Election Day through our on-campus events series. To educate and excite students about political issues, our teams invite local policymakers to our civic engagement events. These events provide thousands of students across North Carolina an opportunity to get exposed and learn more about what politics is like while also increasing their own sense of civic responsibility.
Student Voter Mobilization
To build the political power of young people, we mobilize students around our campuses to vote. We have conversations with students and present to classes and club meetings on the importance of voting and how to vote on each campus. We also partner with university offices and large university groups on social media and email campaigns to ensure students have the knowledge and resources to vote.
In the lead up to the 2022 midterms, our campus teams canvassed their communities for over 330 hours, talking to 4,000 students. As a result of these efforts, we directly registered over 350 voters and turned out thousands of student voters on our campuses.
University Pro-Democracy Advocacy
To ensure high-levels of student turnout in the long-term, our teams advocate for our no-class Democracy Days on their campuses. Democracy Day is a day during the early voting period when classes are canceled to give students time to vote. Civic engagement programming is also held to create a focus on voting during the day among students. Universities that have canceled classes for elections, on average, experience a sustained 12% increase in student-voter turnout. This day would make thousands more young voices heard in the political process.
In our inaugural Democracy Day at Duke University in 2022, we coordinated a full day of campus events with various groups on campus. We hosted events that appealed to a wide array of students interested, including art, music, and wellness events. We also hosted former-RNC chairman and Lincoln Project Co-Founder Michael Steele alongside Durham City Councilmembers. The day resulted in a doubling of early-voting compared to other early voting days.
We have obtained a large amount of support on our campuses in favor of Democracy Day. At UNC-Chapel Hill we have obtained 1,500 student petition signatures supporting Democracy Day, leading the Calendar Committee to recommend having a Democracy Day. At High Point University, we have obtained commitments from high-level administrators supporting Democracy Day. At other schools, we have gotten more student, institutional, and faculty support for implementing Democracy Day, such as more lenient attendance policies for Election Day and faculty governance body’s support.
Our Advocacy team works at the NC General Assembly to lobby for youth issues. Stay tuned for our announcement of our 2023-24 legislative statewide advocacy initiatives later this spring.
Fighting Dangerous Social Media Algorithms
As young people, we’ve suffered as addictive social media algorithms make our generation isolated and depressed. Social media platforms use the massive amount of user data they’ve collected on users to recommend content that they know will keep users online for as long as possible, like content that promotes eating disorders and political extremism.
Our team of students crafted legislation to directly address this issue based on our experiences as young people and are fighting for its passage into law. We directly speak with political leaders to educate them on the importance of legislation to regulate surveillance-based social media algorithms.
In North Carolina, we have a regular presence at the NC General Assembly, and our legislation was recently introduced in the state House with over half of the 120 representatives as cosponsors, and then passed unanimously out of the Judiciary Committee.
In Washington DC, our policy team works on Capitol Hill to advocate for algorithm-focused provisions in federal social media legislation. In our first two months of presence, we met with over 100 Congressional offices and got algorithmic provisions included in the Kids Online Safety Act.
Ending Child Marriage
We worked with a wide coalition of activists, politicians, and nonprofits to advocate for an end to predatory child marriages in North Carolina. Prior to our work, adults would come to North Carolina as a place to legally coerce children into forced marriages.
We played a supporting role in developing the legislation in meetings with to end child marriage by helping to craft language that would be effective and acceptable to politicians.
We also lobbied legislators through phone banking (organizing students to call key legislators in support of the bill) and helping to organize other student-led groups to support the effort, as well as going to the General Assembly to lobby legislators with the coalition.
As a result, the NC General Assembly passed legislation to raise the marriage age to 16, require that the age gap of the people to be married is no more than four years, and create safeguards like a waiting period and parental permission.
Youth Driver’s Licensing
When legislation was proposed to reduce the year-long period where students must have a permit before they can get their license, we were asked for our thoughts given our work on youth/student issues.
We conducted research on the issue, examining the data and meeting with traffic safety experts, and found that the proposed changes could result in increased youth fatalities from having less experienced drivers on the road.
We worked with the experts to craft an alternative approach that would achieve the bill’s intent of being convenient for families while also avoiding an increase in traffic fatalities. We then advocated for the NC General Assembly to amend the bill to reflect these improvements.
As a result of our advocacy, the bill was limited to expire at the end of the year, addressing driver’s licensing inconveniences coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic while not creating a permanent increase in traffic fatalities. The bill was passed into law in this form.
Executive Director & Co-Founder
Student at UNC Chapel Hill from Mooresville, NC
Advocacy & Community Director
Full-time employee from Nashville, TN
Field Operations Director
Student at Duke University from Miami, FL
Operations Director & Co-Founder
Student at Duke University from Mooresville, NC
Student at Duke University from New Haven, CT
Research & Policy Director
Student at University of Notre Dame from Tulsa, OK
Student at Duke University from Youngsville, NC
Student at UNC-Chapel Hill from Mooresville, NC
Student at George Washington University from Washington, DC
Student at George Washington University from Pittsburgh, PA
Campus Field Director
Student at East Carolina University from Raleigh, NC
Campus Field Director
Student at Appalachian State University from Cary, NC
Campus Field Director
Student at Davidson College from Kamuela, Hawai’i
Campus Field Director
Student at Duke University from Marshall, MN
Campus Field Director
Student at North Carolina A&T State University from Detroit, Michigan
Campus Field Director
Student at UNC-Greensboro from Durham, NC
- Young People’s Alliance Education Fund empowers young people through student-led organizing and advocacy. Their student advocates work at colleges across North Carolina, state legislatures, and on Capitol Hill to amplify youth voices.
NB All of the reference sources below are direct hyperlinks to the page in question.
5th Nov 2023