Campus: Sonoma State University -- February 19, 2003

Civic Engagement Among Latino Youth In Sonoma County Focus Of $100,000 Grant

Sonoma State University professors Carlos A. Benito and Francisco Vazquez have received a $100,000 grant to study civic engagement behaviors and beliefs that lead to political awareness, activism and volunteering among Latino high school students in Sonoma County.

Benito and Vazquez hope to suggest ways to motivate students to participate in public life. The project also seeks to explain differences in civic engagement among students of different ethnic backgrounds.

"Over a third of Latinos nationally are younger than 18 years of age, and within the next 10 years, their voting power and civic participation could be formidable," says Vazquez.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic group in the United States, making up 12% of the total U.S. population.

In Sonoma County, Latinos comprise 17.3% of the population, he says.

Awarded from the The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at the University of Maryland, the project involves surveys that consider civic knowledge, human values, family background, socioeconomic status, culture of origin, and demographic characteristics among other factors. Statistical findings will be validated with focus groups.

Such information can be useful for teachers and school administrators who want to develop curriculum or programs promoting civic education, says Benito. "The study's outcomes may also interest policy makers," he says.

"Civic Engagement Among Latino Youth in Sonoma County" will run through December, 2003 and is housed under the Hutchins Institute for Public Policy and Community Action at the University.

Dr. Benito, an economics professor, has worked internationally on Education and Social Projects. He has worked for the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, among others. As a teacher, he commonly has his students do applied research in economics to help them learn while serving community needs.

Dr. Vazquez, director of the Hutchins School of Liberal Studies, was recently honored as a recipient of one of four Honorable Mentions for the nationally recognized Ernest A. Lynton Award for Faculty Professional Service and Academic Outreach. The award recognizes a faculty member who connects his or her expertise and scholarship to community outreach.

Jean Wasp, Media Relations, (707) 664-2057

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