The Purple America is a new student-led program that connects high school students from across the United States to have discussions online about some of the leading political and social controversies in the news today. In order to help students engage in these discussions with a focus on empathy and understanding, the Purple America Initiative is building a curriculum for mediated discussions where students can share their own experiences and opinions while listening to perspectives different from their own, bridging the gap between “Red America” and “Blue America.” The $3000 prize will be used to support their video-communication technology and website and make their project accessible to all those who are interested.Updates from Eman
We are living in a critical moment in time. A moment in which the media highlights the polarizing differences between communities across the nation. A moment in which teenagers are watching politicians attack the character of others rather than their ideas. A moment in which it seems every action taken in our nation’s capital is partisan rather than done with our country’s best interests in mind. In these moments, it becomes easy to shut out other perspectives as inherently wrong and close off your mind from new ideas. It is excruciatingly more difficult to take the chance to listen to someone who has a completely different background than you with an open mind and engage in a productive, intellectual and respectful discussion.
Creating this situation for high school students across the United States is what Purple America strives to do. The Purple America Initiative is an organization that connects high school students from across the United States to have face-to-face conversations about politics with people from communities they may not have interacted with. Students from small towns and big cities are brought together to find what makes them similar but also understand what makes their realities and opinions different. In these discussions, we keep the values of empathy, kindness and connection-making at the forefront in order to keep on track towards a more tolerant and productive political future. With these core values and our mission in mind, I’ve highlighted three core aspects of our program below:
¬ Fully Online – By hosting this program online, we are taking away the geographic “political bubbles” that exist in many communities and allow students the chance to broaden the types of perspectives that they are exposed to. With access to a laptop of mobile device, students can instantly begin to participate in face-to-face, facilitated conversations. Whether students are from rural farms, small towns, residential suburbs or the center of a city, they all come together on our platform with only three expectations placed on them: that they keep an open mind, they are respectful, and that they move the conversation forward.
¬ Student-Led – One of the key parts of our mission is to promote student leadership, especially regarding politics and social issues. As such, our organization is mainly student-led from individual school representatives to discussion facilitators to our leadership positions. Students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to gain leadership positions throughout their involvement with the program. However, we do have adult advisors and nonprofit partners who provide input on specialized aspects of our program.
¬ Non-Partisan Guarantee – We are a non-partisan organization whose leadership positions are open to students from across the political spectrum. Our end goal is not for students to “convert” to different opinions, but for students who participate in our program to leave with the experience handling difficult conversations and the mindset necessary for future political leaders and voting citizens to have.
Since March 2018, we’ve made immense progress in launching and developing our project. Over 200 students from over 10 states have participated in our online discussions, many of whom will be joining the project in a leadership capacity for the 2019-20 school year. We are also excited to fully launch and implement the school chapters program, allowing students to take what they learn from the overall online program and bring it back to their smaller school communities. Developing this program and maintaining our dedication to keeping our platform free to all high school students will be the focus of what we will use our Call for Kindness grant for.
Although as high-school students without voting rights we have limited opportunities to make an impact on our current political environment, it is never too early for us to start shaping an even more productive and tolerant future for our nation. Through my own efforts and experiences in launching this program, I have gained such great insight into the opinions and lives of my peers from many different places. I have seen firsthand how impactful these discussions can be. Whether you’re a high school student, an educator, a parent, a potential sponsor, or just someone interested in the idea, I hope you’ll join us in the greater movement of spreading understanding and empathy across the political divide.