Identity and Civic Engagement Day

October 2020

The entire Upper School participated in a half-day virtual conference for Identity and Civic Engagement Day on Friday, October 30. Students attended sessions led by peers on a variety of topics listed below, and more than a dozen community organizations and individuals talked about their work in advocacy and policy initiatives, community organizing, as well as civic engagement strategies. During advising time, students conducted self-assessments that guided them in articulating their political values and beliefs.

Thank you, Ms. Merchant for organizing this outstanding event!


Identity, Dialogue, and Social Entrepreneurship: The Power of the Individual in Social Changemaking led by Ishaan Barrett

Identity, Beliefs, and Empathy led by Jack Pagano

Politics and Social Media led by Myles Silsby

Modern Day Tribalism: An Impediment to Free Thinking led by Sophie Abdo

Religious Freedom and White Supremacy led by Alexa Cohen

Black Women in STEM Fields led by Sage Smith

Instagram Activism: Performative or Effective? led by Lyla Carmel Jessup

Identity as a Political Leverage Point led by Nicholas Zhu

US-China Relations in the Trump Administration and the Biden Platform led by the Foreign Policy Club


Vote16USABrandon Klugman and Takoma Park+DC campaign staff

Vote16USA is a national campaign, organized by Generation Citizen, that aims to support efforts to lower the voting age on the local level, help start new local campaigns, and elevate the issue’s prominence on a national level. Guided by an Advisory Board and Youth Advisory Board, the campaign aims to help with the coordination of new and current local campaigns around the country while elevating the issue nationally through traditional and social media and by building partnerships with a broad group of stakeholders.

SMYALAlex Rodriguez and Jhirbron Tonge, Youth Leadership

SMYAL was founded in 1984 to meet the needs of LGBTQ youth in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders) supports and empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in the Washington, DC, metropolitan region. Through youth leadership, SMYAL creates opportunities for LGBTQ youth to engage their peers and community through service and advocacy. Committed to social change, SMYAL builds, sustains, and advocates for programs, policies, and services that LGBTQ youth need as they grow into adulthood.

Lisa Marie Thalhammer

Lisa Marie Thalhammer intends her work to be socio-political and creates art for a variety of public demonstrations. She is known for her striking and powerful paintings, collages, and public artworks that use portraiture, symbolism, color, and shape to explore interconnectivity, raise consciousness and communicate uplifting messages. A longtime community activist, she exhibits fine artwork and paints large-scale public art murals in Washington, DC, in addition to other locations nationally and internationally.

Briayna Cuffie

Briayna Cuffie is a civil servant whose community involvement and calling to public service began in elementary school when she took it upon herself to learn Spanish in order to help tutor the increasing Hispanic and Latinx population at her school. Her upbringing by politically active and civically engaged elders has resulted in valuing cultural awareness, social and racial justice, the political process, and a desire to bring intersectionality to politics. From door-knocking to serving as a Campaign Manager, she takes delight in being a part of campaigns whenever, and however, she can.

Black Swan AcademyOK Ukah, Lead Organizer

The Black Swan Academy empowers black youth in under-served communities through civic leadership and engagement, giving them a comprehensive set of tools needed to succeed in life and become active social catalysts in their communities. BSA is committed to creating a pipeline of Black youth leaders that are committed to improving self, as well as their communities.

The Community Enrichment Project DCLauren Grimes, Founder

The mission of the Community Enrichment Project (CEP) is to enhance underserved communities in Washington, DC by empowering adolescents within them. The CEP believes the path to creating strong communities is dependent upon assessing community needs, and building upon the skills and talents that already exist in order to create change from within.

Reclaim Our VoteRoxane Rucker, Regional Coordinator

The Reclaim Our Vote Campaign was launched in 2018 by the Center for Common Ground of Virginia. Since late 2017, the nonpartisan Reclaim Our Vote campaign has reached out to nearly a million voters of color in states like Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, Texas and Mississippi—states with a long history of voter suppression. Reclaim Our Vote works to increase turnout among voters of color. 

National Coalition for the Homeless

The “Faces of Homelessness” Speakers' Bureau is composed of people who are committed to sharing their personal and powerful experiences of homelessness with others. The lack of interaction between different groups of our society, combined with impersonal or inaccurate descriptions of homelessness posed by the media and public officials, contributes to a distancing of those who have housing from those who do not. As a result, homelessness is perceived as an abstract social problem. This unique and necessary approach to addressing homelessness establishes a significant platform for those whom homelessness affects directly to talk personally about their experiences while advocating for themselves and others.