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All students should have the opportunity to be civically engaged regardless of their resources, context, and ability. Encouraging civic learning opportunities and supporting youth who actively build their capacity for empathy and work to improve their community while learning about government institutions has tremendous impact.

Providing youth with civic education and civic engagement opportunities helps them grasp concepts around policy-making, critically evaluate their world, and recognize that their voice impacts decision-making. Frequent active engagement in civil discourse teaches youth how to engage productively with their society, promotes curiosity, and builds informed citizenry.

To promote civic engagement among youth, the California Department of Education (CDE) developed the State Seal of Civic Engagement (SSCE). A set of criteria was developed to award students who have demonstrated excellence in civic education. The seal, or insignia, is then added to the student’s transcripts, diplomas, or certificates of completion.

Across the state of California, students have joined together to uplift their voices and participate in student-led activism. In the 2020-2021 school year, 5,359 seals were awarded across the state. Despite the pandemic, the number of state seals awarded nearly doubled, with the CDE distributing 10,104 seals. In the 2021-2022 school year, 1,005 state seals were given to students in Santa Clara County.

Last fall, the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) launched local criteria for the SSCE to support schools in creating pathways for students to become civically engaged and receive recognition. The SCCOE is among the first to feature customized pathways for educational programs serving students who are often marginalized. The programs are the Alternative Education Department, Opportunity Youth Academy, and the Special Education Department. Civic education is prioritized for students in these programs by arranging opportunities to meet the needs of each student no matter their ability, resources or context.

Students understand the importance of civic and democratic education by earning the SSCE. For example, the SSCE brochure lists several community partners for schools to consider connecting with and identifies examples of how to meet each criterion, like attending a school board meeting, to demonstrate a competent understanding of the U.S. and California constitutions.

The SCCOE encourages youth in Santa Clara County to have increased awareness of current events and issues that impact their world. To learn more about the SSCE, visit the SCCOE State Seal of Civic Engagement website.