A National Service and Civic Engagement Research grant of $100,000 received by two faculty members in the social welfare department of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs will contribute to research dedicated to increasing and strengthening the nation’s understanding and knowledge of civic engagement in America.

Laura Wray-Lake, an assistant professor, will be principal investigator and Laura Abrams, a professor, will be co-principal investigator for a study that aims to generate a more comprehensive understanding of what youth civic engagement looks like in urban contexts. 

“The project will draw from interviews with urban youth as well as nationally representative survey responses,” Wray-Lake said. “It will document how urban youth of color define their communities and describe their positive contributions. It will also identify obstacles that prevent youth from becoming more engaged in their communities.”

The researchers will study the kinds of opportunities and relationships that empower youth to become civically engaged in the face of adversity. 

UCLA is among 14 U.S. higher education institutions receiving Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) grants totaling more than $1.3 million. The federal agency oversees AmeriCorps and the nation’s volunteer initiatives.

“Urban environments offer unique barriers to civic engagement as well as opportunities for youth to meaningfully engage in community change, and our work will help to uncover how these barriers and opportunities play out in youth’s lives,” Wray-Lake said. “Ultimately, we hope this work will shed light on strategies to empower urban youth to become social change agents.”