DC Action partnered with Black Swan Academy and Mikva Challenge DC during August to sponsor census internships for District youth to conduct text-banking and outreach in their communities. Like numerous other localities across the country, the District of Columbia faced the prospect of having a severe undercount of its residents with a delayed, and shortened, census season. An accurate, complete census is vital for the District’s children, youth, and local democracy.

Census data determines the distribution of $6 billion in federal funding to the District every year, including $400 million for children in areas such as healthcare, WIC, child care, and public schools. The District of Columbia had the second-highest undercount rate of U.S. cities in the 2010 Census. DC Action’s goal with this partnership was to reach as many residents as possible this year.

Two dozen young people across the District made a difference in their communities as Census Youth Ambassadors.  They sent out hundreds of thousands of text messages to DC residents – focusing on the areas of the city with lower response rates – asking residents if they’ve completed the 2020 census. Ambassadors sent information on how to complete the census and answered questions when they arose, sending a total of 219,520 messages to 88, 701 unique contacts and engaging in 15,568 conversations, truly getting the message out there.

If we don’t have an accurate count in the District, children and youth in every community will be harmed by a lack of funding for the next 10 years. Nearly a third of the District’s households had not yet responded, and our very young children and older youth are especially at risk of being missed. This was a timely opportunity to educate and train our young people about the importance of the data and the Census and position them to leverage their tech-savvy and personal relationships to ensure their communities respond to the Census. Kimberly Perry, Executive Director of DC Action

I know how much of an impact the census can have on a particular community when related to how much funding that community receives. Every community deserves a fair shot at being adequately funded. Youth Ambassador, Black Swan Academy

In addition to COVID-19 challenges and the administration ending door-knocking outreach a month early, we were already seeing inequitable disparities in Census form completion across DC. East of the River communities are at risk of being undercounted. In partnership with DC Action, we were delighted to empower and compensate our Mikva DC youth. We believe that in these times, youth leading purposeful outreach to their fellow Washingtonians about the importance of filling out the Census is especially appropriate. They engaged more of their peers in understanding the process and in providing a true representation of our overall population and the diversity of our city, and the needs of our residents. Robyn Lingo, Executive Director of Mikva DC

I became a Youth Census Ambassador because I believe that everyone should be accounted for, whether it’s in the census or by voting. The first step is taking action. Youth Ambassador, Mikva Challenge DC

The Black Swan Academy partnered with DC Action because we both understand the importance of whole families being counted and equitably represented in Washington, DC. Our young people are passionate about service and raising awareness, and ensuring much-needed resources get to their communities is a way of doing that. Kawanza Billy, Project Manager at Black Swan Academy

If you are inspired to take action, make sure that all eligible members of your community – especially young people for whom the next election is the first for which they are eligible – are registered to vote.

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DC Kids Count is powered by DC Action and provides the best available data to measure and track the well-being of our District’s children and young adults. Research for DC Kids Count is funded in part by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The findings and conclusions presented are those of DC Action’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Foundation.