Friends Select Receives State Award for Voter Registration

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Friends Select School received the Governor’s Civic Engagement Award on May 29, 2020, for its student voter registration efforts this year. 100% of eligible Friends Select students registered to vote in the 2020 general election. 

This fall, students and faculty, including Associate Director of Educational Technology Steve Greenbaum and Director of City Curriculum Margaret Smith, collaborated to organize a voter registration drive, which took place on National Voter Registration Day (9/28) and during National Voter Education Week in October. After the registration deadline for the general election passed on 10/19, they started a Get Out the Vote effort, making sure that every eligible FSS community member had a plan for how and when to cast their ballot. 

According to organizer and Associate Director of Educational Technology Steve Greenbaum, “in normal times, [FSS] would run an in-person voter registration drive on the plaza, but this past 2020 election year, we used a phone texting approach.” Through this method, students were encouraged to send a pre-written voting message to 10-15 friends, family, or acquaintances — think of it as chain mail that could save democracy. Steve hopes to continue registering seniors to vote for local primary elections on May 18th.

Annie Rupertus ‘21, who helped register her fellow classmates, believes that Friend Select’s strong emphasis on social justice, activism, and the power of young people made a big difference in student voter turnout. “I definitely think that FSS’s voter registration tactics could be implemented at other schools. I think our method of casual student-to-student interactions related to voter registration would be really effective in other schools, especially when backed by efforts to foster politically engaged and socially conscious student bodies from early on,” says Annie.

Friends Select’s perfect student voter registration rate might have been made possible because of the small student population; only ten members of the class of 2021 were eligible to vote by November 3rd. A 100% registration rate might be harder to obtain for larger high schools.

City Commissioner Omar Sabir believes that our process can be implemented elsewhere. He recently reached out to Friends Select to investigate how our success could spread to high schools across all of Philadelphia.