Residing within Monroe College’s newly renamed School of Criminal and Social Justice, the Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Justice is dedicated to helping today’s young students understand the fundamentals of civics, embrace their responsibilities as members of the community, and most important of all, feel empowered to effect the changes they would like to see in their communities.
The Institute’s mission is straightforward: to increase political literacy and engagement among New York City high school and college students, help them find their voices, and gain confidence to advocate on matters important to them.
Monroe founded the Institute on the basis of a single truth: Supporting the development and growth of students’ interest in civic engagement and the political process is essential to their participation in the democratic process.
Too many young Black and Latino adults today feel disengaged and disenfranchised and unsure how to have a voice on the issues that matter most to them, such as stopping social injustice and creating racial equality. The College saw that first-hand as it sought to help its students make sense of the senseless acts that brought the names George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and far, far too many others to the national conscience.
The Institute is led by Guylaine Harrison, Esq., dean of the School of Criminal and Social Justice, and Michael Blake, the College’s inaugural Visiting Social Justice and Civics Fellow and former three-term New York State Assembly Member. Both have been vocal advocates for communities of color and strong mentors to the students and constituencies they serve.
Programs and Initiatives
Among the Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Justice’s planned programs and initiatives:
- Expanded Academic Offerings at Monroe: The College now offers a minor in Civic Studies for majors such as criminal justice, human services, public health, and business. Monroe plans to offer a certificate in Civic Engagement and Leadership, which would be obtained by taking an additional six credits beyond the 18 credits required by the minor.
- The Civic Scholars program: Academically gifted students will be invited to participate in rewarding internships with local elected representatives or pursue meaningful, hands-on service experiences by committing 250 service hours across the academic year to assist local government agencies and nonprofit organizations as they work to address pressing community needs.
- High School Dual Enrollment Courses: The Institute will offer a number of special events and civics-minded dual enrollment programs for high school students to address the dearth of civics education in most high schools. Students passing the free dual enrollment courses will earn three college credits transferrable to the higher educational institution of their choice. The first course offered was title “Social Justice, Government, and Civic Engagement.” More than 200 students from 27 high schools across the Bronx signed up to participate.
- Voter Education and Registration Drives: Improving Black and Latinx voter education, registration, and mobilization is a key goal of the Institute. Opportunities to meet candidates and discuss important issues at the local and national levels will be created.
- Speakers Series: The Institute will organize and host several events throughout the year. Guest speakers will be invited to speak and engage in conversation with their peers, with students, and with the public on pressing issues of the day.
- Leadership Mentoring: The Institute will also provide students with a keen interest in public service the opportunity to partner with appropriate civic and political leaders willing to serve as mentors to the students. Such one-on-one work would help activate students’ interest in civic engagement and observe public service leadership skills in action.
“The Institute is a home for students seeking to learn about our political process and their role in advocating for social change. It is a place where they will learn the fundamentals of civics, hear from visiting lecturers on matters of social injustice, and perhaps be inspired to enter public service and become community leaders themselves.”
— Marc Jerome, President of Monroe College
Michael Blake, the Institute’s Visiting Social Justice and Civics Fellow
In February 2021, Monroe proudly announced that Michael Blake would be joining the Institute as the College’s first Visiting Social Justice and Civics Fellow.
Mr. Blake, an ardent advocate and respected champion for communities of color, is exceptionally suited for the role as Visiting Fellow.
Prior to his tenure as New York State Assemblymember, he served in the Obama-Biden administration as the White House Associate Director of Public Engagement and Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, where he coordinated outreach to the African-American, Minority and Women Business Enterprises and state and county elected official communities. Blake has also served as Vice Chair at Large of the Democratic National Committee. He was the first Black man elected to DNC leadership since Ron Brown, helping lead efforts to mobilize millennials, communities of color, among other work.
The Institute’s programming will be strengthened by the impressive roster of civil rights advocates and elected officials who will serve on an Advisory Board currently being empaneled. Interested individuals may contact Dean Guylaine Harrison at firstname.lastname@example.org.