The Legacy of Ab Mikva

By Mark Rosenberg

We all lost a great friend and inspiration with the death of Ab Mikva. Among his many accomplishments, possibly his greatest legacy may be the Mikva Challenge that was founded by Ab and Zoe Mikva in 1997. AbMikva

The mission of the Mikva Challenge, as we learned at a recent Tenth Dems University (TDU) event, is to empower young people to become active participants in the democratic process. Mikva divided real-life democracy education into five robust “Action Civics” programs that serve over 6,000 high school students and 130 teachers at 110 schools across the Chicago Metropolitan region.

The results of the Mikva Challenge programs are impressive, with 88 percent of participating students registering to vote compared with 50 percent of all 18 to 30 year olds overall.  And two thousand students participated as election judges in recent Chicago mayoral elections.

Beyond the numbers, what has impressed me is how self-assured and engaged the students are, a stark contrast to the stories that appear daily in the Chicago media about today’s youth.

In addition to helping organize the TDU program about the Mikva Challenge, I had the privilege of accompanying Chicago students who participated in getting out the vote for the Iowa Caucuses on a sub-zero January weekend this year. In addition to escaping a wild turkey on the streets outside Des Moines, my students learned communication skills and the election issues that were of concern to Iowa voters.

The success of the Mikva Challenge has generated state legislation to require civics education in high schools across Illinois. Thanks to Ab and Zoe Mikva, we can look forward to a new generation of students who are engaged and active politically.


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