Camelot Education Students Participate in 2020 Census Education Efforts via Phone-Banking Initiative
Students at Chicago’s Excel Academy of Englewood and Excel Academy of Roseland are working to increase 2020 Census participation in their communities while gaining valuable skills and earning compensation for their work. Image Source
The census outreach program was implemented in February in coordination with Chicago Public Schools Options Schools Network. So far, eight Camelot students are participating: four from Excel Academy of Roseland and four from Excel Academy of Englewood. The program launched prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and at that time, it included a series of in-person programs at community events.
“The goal of the program is to bring awareness to citizens in Chicago about what the census is and why it’s important that you register and complete the census,” said Kevin Sweetland, Camelot’s Regional Director in Chicago.
The initial outreach included the schools’ community of parents where students promoted census participation at events such as report card pickup day. Students then broadened their outreach to the community, partnering with the local Whole Foods to distribute census information.
When the coronavirus crisis hit, the work continued, with students conducting the outreach over the phone.
“Since we are not physically engaged in the community, we are using a phone-banking system called SmartVAN to maintain census outreach activity,” said Ricardo Waddy, Director of Programming/Careers at Excel Academy of Englewood. “Students are given a script to read from. They speak with the person on the phone about committing to complete their census form.”
If someone has not filled out their census form, students talk them through the steps to do so. Citizens having trouble with the form can depend on the students for answers.
Students typically connect with 20 people per day. The work can take up to 10 hours per week as students call through lists of 2,000 phone numbers.
Waddy saw that students took special pride in the ability to educate their classmates, families, and community members during the February events. He sees that they have learned that the census really matters in determining the government funding totals their community receives.
“Students didn’t know what the census was before the program began,” said Waddy. “The program educated them as to what it is and why it’s important. The programs we did before the COVID-19 shutdown gave them a sense of pride.”
He continued, “This is on top of getting paid, which is very important. A lot of our students don’t have the opportunity to work outside of school.”
The program is not always easy for the students and is challenging them to grow in new ways.
Waddy says that a couple of the students had difficulty with public speaking prior to this program. The work has helped them get out of their comfort zone, which will benefit them as they transition into the working world.
“From the census program, I am hoping students develop confidence in speaking with others. Hopefully, this helps them transition to adulthood,” said Waddy.
Sweetland sees tremendous opportunities for students.
“This is an opportunity for students to develop skills in a lot of different ways, dealing with the public, communicating accurate information through outreach out of their comfort zone,” said Sweetland. “They are contacting people they don’t know, which can be daunting and intimidating, bringing an opportunity to grow. The program will also increase community awareness, and allow students to earn a little money while serving as stewards for the census bureau.”
The students will participate in the census outreach program through June 2020.