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Lightning Foundation Grant Spotlight: Kids Voting Tampa Bay

by Erin Chenderlin / Tampa Bay Lightning

On April 23, the Lightning Foundation awarded grants to 16 local organizations totaling $120,500 at the Community Awards and Donor Recognition Reception. Grant applicants were asked to detail their organizations and give a proposed program or project, along with a description of how it qualifies under the Lightning Foundation's funding guidelines. The Foundation's Board of Directors selected the 16 organizations. is profiling each of the organizations and the grant they received. Check back daily for a new organization and see how the Lightning Foundation is truly fulfilling its mission to make Tampa Bay a better place to live, work and play.

Kids Voting Tampa Bay

Through a continuing grant, the Lightning Foundation is supporting social studies curriculum that encourages kids throughout the Tampa Bay area to get interested in and educated about voting.

The Lightning Foundation awarded a grant to Kids Voting Tampa Bay that will go toward their 2008 General Election Curriculum and Services. The grant funds awarded will provide civics curriculum and services to schools and will provide students the opportunity to cast a practice ballot.

"This authentic voting experience dispels the mysteries of voting and is designed to increase first-time voter participation,” said Bobby Fox, director of Kids Voting Tampa Bay.

It is the mission of KVTB to ensure that one day all citizens will be educated and engaged voters. With 2008 being an election year, KVTB is even more thrilled with the opportunity presented to them with the grant funds from the Lightning Foundation.

The curriculum taught is provided free to all school districts and split up according to age and grade level. The social studies supplement stresses the importance of voting and is available from kindergarten through 12th grade. Fox said he hopes by the time the children reach voting age, it will be routine for them to go to the polls and cast their vote.

"It's not to teach them who to vote for, but how to figure it out for themselves," he said of the curriculum.

One goal of the General Election program is to challenge students to think about civic engagement and its relationship to our nation's history. It is hoped this education will stimulate the "Trickle-up" effect and increase adult voter turnout.

Fox said the "Trickle-up" effect can work in two different ways. KVTB hopes as more children receive this curriculum and learn about the process of voting, they will start to vote in larger numbers once they reach 18. The other half of the "Trickle-up" effect is the impact these children will have on their parents, Fox said. As the kids bring home sample ballots and start talking to their parents about voting, it creates a family dialog, he said. The goal is that the parents, who may have never voted before, will become involved and take their children to the polls to cast their sample ballots. While there, it is hoped they will cast an actual ballot, themselves.

Kids Voting Tampa Bay allows children to cast a sample ballot at real polling places throughout the county on election days. The votes are counted and tabulated by KVTB staff and volunteers, and the results are released throughout the Bay area the day after the election. Fox said they had more than 150,000 children vote in 2006.

"We're fortunate that we have partners that agree this program is important," Fox said. "Without the grants and the corporate donors, this program would not exist."


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