Georgia Shift Increases Augusta Millennial Voter Turnout by 379%

November 1, 2018

Contact: Ian Bridgeforth

Phone: 706-414-8519

Email: ibridgeforth@georgiashift.com

Website: georgiashift.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Georgia Shift Increases Augusta Millennial Voter Turnout by 379%

Augusta, GA — Georgia Shift, a 501(c)3 non-profit based in Augusta, is excited to announce that their Get Out the Vote (GOTV) operations has led to a 379% increase in 18 – 34 year old (youth voter) turnout, compared to the same period in 2014. Over 1,600 young voters in the area have cast their ballots compared to 335 young voters in 2014, according data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office as of October 29.

Georgia Shift’s grassroots efforts are focused on mobilizing young voters in Augusta who typically have been left out of the political process. The organization has knocked on 10,000 doors, distributed over 10,000 voter guides, and sent over 25,000 text messages. It has deliberately targeted the youngest voters, ages 18 – 24, resulting in an 800% increase in turnout compared to 2014.

Ian Bridgeforth, Founder and Executive Director of Georgia Shift, stated “It is incredible to see the impact our work has had during the early voting period. The 800% increase in 18 to 24 year old turnout is the largest increase in voter turnout among all age groups. These facts are evidence that young people will turn out to vote when you actually make an effort to talk to them and the issues they care about. This information should dispel any notions that young people do not care about this election. They are fired up and ready to vote.”

Georgia Shift will continue to turn out youth voters through the end of early voting and Election Day.

About Georgia Shift

Georgia Shift gives marginalized young people a seat at the table of democracy through electoral action, hands-on advocacy and education, and civic media programs. The organization envisions a Georgia where marginalized young people of color are the fundamental driver of political impact and public policy at every level of government in an unbridled democracy.

To learn more about Georgia Shift, visit www.georgiashift.com.

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🗣 We’re Hiring Fellows!

If you live near Augusta, Milledgeville, Macon, Southwest Georgia, or Gwinnett County, we want you on our team.

The Democracy On Demand™ Fellowship is a paid part-time leadership opportunity designed to cultivate the natural gifts of marginalized young people for civic leadership. It includes training, mentorship, and project-based work tailored for their natural talents and fosters their growth as emerging civic leaders.

Fellows will receive a stipend of $1,000 per month, and work from July through November.

Application Deadline: July 8, 2018

Apply here: http://bit.ly/GSFellowship

 

What’s A District Attorney?

A district attorney has the power to impact young people of color in damaging and irreversible ways.

Even worse, the office of the DA (and our criminal justice system) can be a problematic maze very few understand.

So we’re starting a series about the office of the DA, what they do, and how we can hold them accountable. Check out our introductory video, breaking down exactly what a DA is.

Let’s Talk About HOPE and College Access

Since its creation in 1993, the HOPE scholarship has been instrumental in making post secondary education more accessible for students. However, due to changes made in 2011, the window of opportunity is becoming smaller and smaller. According to a report done by Georgia Budget & Policy Institute senior education policy analyst Claire Suggs, fewer students are receiving HOPE than ever before.

Once covering a student’s full tuition costs, the HOPE program now only provides partial tuition coverage for most. The requirements for receiving HOPE have also become stricter, requiring a 3.0 GPA, high SAT or ACT scores and at least four college-level courses such as advanced placement classes. Higher requirements as well as an age restriction preventing those who are seven years out of high school from obtaining HOPE, result in a smaller number of people being able to continue their education.

Other HOPE programs include the Zell Miller Scholarship, granting full tuition to those with a 3.7 GPA in addition to high SAT or ACT scores and four college-level courses, the HOPE grant for those completing a degree or certificate at a technical college requiring a 2.0 GPA and the Zell Miller grant that requires a 3.5 GPA and covers full tuition costs. Both the HOPE and Zell Miller Scholarship are more likely to go to middle and high-income students.

The new requirements affect students of various race and ethnicities, however those hit the hardest are black students with an amazing 80 percent not receiving HOPE. Without the aid of HOPE, students are left struggling to pay for tuition and other mandatory fees.

To mitigate the issue, the GBPI report details possible ways to improve HOPE including doing away with the age requirement and restoring the HOPE grant to full tuition and fees for technical colleges. Perhaps one of the most important solutions offered is to create a completely separate need-based aid program specifically for low-income students and their families. Higher education policy analyst for the GBPI, Jennifer Lee, suggests that HOPE itself isn’t the problem, as it is a merit-based scholarship, but rather the lack of need-based scholarships.

“The HOPE scholarship was originally designed to keep high performing students in the state,” said Lee. “The problem is that Georgia doesn’t have another scholarship program for students in need.”

Even if Georgia restored the HOPE scholarship to cover full tuition and fees and lowered the test score and class requirements, it wouldn’t solve the problem of lower-income students, particularly black students, being overlooked in terms of access to financial aid. Due to the historical under funding of K-12 schools in low-income, primarily black neighborhoods and cities, many students simply don’t have the resources such as college-level courses and academic support to qualify for HOPE.

Keeping in mind that HOPE is mostly a reward for top students and those who have already had good opportunities, how do we support students that may not have a great GPA and test scores? How do we make sure everyone has the access to post secondary education and the ability to financially support themselves through college?

Dr. Deshawn Preston of the Southern Education Foundation suggests paying attention not only to tuition and fees, but also the cost of living. The Southern Education Foundation is an organization focusing on equity in education and providing options to allow everyone access to college. The organization is currently working on a report looking specifically at cost of attendance, a factor that is often overlooked when preparing students for college.

“Past focusing on tuition, we need to look at other factors,” said Preston. “What are the transportation options, what kind of insurance do these students have, how do we keep students in college once they get there?”

Preston also says that more money is often put into keeping freshman and sophomores afloat, but options significantly lessen as students continue their education. Students can’t prioritize college if they have other financial needs such as housing and health care.

Both Lee and Preston emphasize the importance of contacting local legislatures and politicians and speaking about issues that are important to you.

“The best way to talk to legislatures is to come with personal stories and issues and let them know what you care about,” said Lee.

Preston also stresses how important voting at the local level is. Start small and affect change in your local communities and branch out. We can make important changes to HOPE as well as advocate for need-based financial aid programs. The change starts within our communities.

10 Helpful Websites for College Students

Chegg

A website where you can rent new or used textbooks for a low price. Don’t feel restricted by your college bookstore – rentals, used books and digital downloads are usually always cheaper and easier. If Chegg doesn’t have what you need, try textbookrentals.com, thriftbooks.com, campusbooks.com or amazon.com (the latter even offers a discount on Prime for students.)

GroupMe

A chat app that’s great for group projects. Instead of having to keep track of communication through emails and texts, GroupMe makes it so all of your conversations are in one convenient place. Similar apps are WhatsApp and Slack, which allows you upload documents into group messages.

 

Evernote

Evernote is useful for people who like to take notes. The app makes it so that all the notes you take on your phone or computer is available across all of your devices. You can use it for notes, images, documents, etc.

 

Habitica

Sometimes people need a little extra incentive to keep up their productivity. Habitica can help you “gamify” your duties, but only if you allow it to.

It’s is a free habit building and productivity app that treats your daily tasks like an RPG game, providing you with in-game rewards and punishments to help motivate you. Complete a task to earn gold, or fail to do something and lose some health. It can be especially effective if used among a group (roommates, coworkers, club members, etc). However, you have to be willing and able to be completely honest with yourself about your productivity. Other productivity apps include Site Block, Momentum App and Forest App.

 

Purdue OWL

This site is super useful if you’re writing a paper and you aren’t sure about how to properly cite a source. It covers APA, MLA, Chicago style, Turabian, and more. Similar websites are Easybib.com, Citethisforme.com and APStyleBook.com.

iCalender

iCalendar helps keep all your meetings, class times and dates in a digital planner. Sometimes there are too many things going on at once, and iCalendar takes some of the stress away from being where I need to be on time. Other online planners include WeekPlan.net and Mystudylife.com.

 

Quizlet

Quizlet offers online flashcards to help you learn dates, names, terms or any other coursework. You can create your own or find user-created sets relevant to your studying. The Quizlet app is perfect for learning in spare moments, and it’s normally easy to find sets of terms you need that somebody else already made.

 

Mint

This online service shows you the big picture of your financial state while also keeping tabs on every single transaction that posts to every one of your accounts. It’s free, and it includes budgeting tools, bill reminders, your credit score, and more. Other financial apps include an investing resource called Acorns and an app that helps with stocks called Robinhood.

Google Drive

The most basic way to describe Google Drive is that it’s an online file cabinet where you can store and share documents and other digital files. But it also offers Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Sheets and Google Forms. So Drive is not only allows you to store everything in one place, but create.

Headspace

While in school, it’s important to prioritize your mental health. Headspace helps with meditation and exercise to alleviate anxiety. Similar sites include donothingfor2minutes.com, weavesilk.com and calm.com.

Financial Aid: Explained

School will be starting back next month and it’s important to understand the basics of paying for your education. In 2014-15, about two-thirds of full-time students paid for college with the help of financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships, but sometime the process can be difficult to navigate. Below is a helpful guide explaining a few aspects regarding student financial aid, but it is recommended to do additional research and visit your financial aid office at school.

FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form that can be prepared annually by current and prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate) in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid.

Beginning with the 2017-2018 academic year, the FAFSA is made available to the public on October 1 and is recommended that students fill it out as soon as possible.

Types of Aid

Hope Scholarship

In Georgia, HOPE Scholarships are merit-based awards — independent of family income — and available to all students from Georgia pursuing an undergraduate degree. They pay for tuition at any in-state two- or four-year college or university and most fees. The tuition award amount is determined annually by the Georgia Student Finance Commission as a “per credit hour rate” which is published on their website.

All HOPE programs require students to meet basic requirements. An eligible student must:

  1. Meet HOPE’s U.S. citizenship or eligible non-citizen requirements
  2. Be a legal resident of Georgia
  3. Be in compliance with Selective Service registration requirements
  4. Be in good standing on all student loans or other financial aid programs
  5. Be in compliance with the Georgia Drug-Free Postsecondary Education Act of 1990
  6. Not have exceeded the maximum award limits for any HOPE program.
  7. Graduate from a HOPE-eligible high school with a minimum 3.0 grade point average. OR graduate from an ineligible high school, complete a home study program in Georgia, or earn a GED and score in the national composite 75th percentile or higher on the SAT or ACT prior to completion of 30 semester or 45 quarter hours of college degree-level coursework
  8. Be enrolled as a degree-seeking student at a public or private HOPE-eligible college or university in Georgia.

Once awarded a HOPE, you’ll continue to receive the aid each year — there’s no need to reapply. But in order to maintain a HOPE Scholarship, you’ll have to:

  1. Not have exceeded the maximum award limits for any HOPE program
  2. Keep up a 3.0 grade point average in college.
  3. Practice continuous enrollment aimed at earning a degree. Taking a break of two or more semesters will leave you ineligible.

HOPE Scholarship eligibility lasts until you receive a bachelor’s degree — Eligibility also ends after students take 127 credit hours — and all credit hours attempted count, even if student drops the course part way through.

Students who lose their HOPE Scholarships for not maintaining a 3.0 average can reapply if their GPA has returned to that level after the 30th, 60th or 90th credit hour attempted. However, if your cumulative average is still under 3.0 after you’ve attempted your 90th hour, you’ll be permanently ineligible for the HOPE program.

Zell Miller Scholarship

Zell Miller Scholarship pays full standard tuition for students who earned a 3.7 GPA (un-weighted) for all academic high school classes and earned at least a 1200 in one sitting on the Math and Verbal section of the SAT or at least a 26 on the ACT. Students who are Valedictorian or Salutatorian of their class are automatically eligible for Zell Miller Scholarship.

To maintain the Zell Miller Scholarship, you must have a 3.3 minimum GPA at 30 attempted hours, 60 attempted hours, 90 attempted hours and at the end of every Spring semester.

Federal Pell Grants

You’re eligible for a Pell Grant if you have financial need. The U.S. Department of Education determines your financial need by taking the information you supply when applying for a Pell Grant (for example, your family income) and plugging it into a standard formula to produce a number called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is then compared to the expected cost of attending your college (tuition and fees, room and board, books, and supplies) to determine the financial aid for which you’re eligible.

The maximum Pell Grant for the 2017-18 award year is $5,920. The amount of the grant depends on your financial need and other factors, including the amount of time you attend college (whether a full academic year or less, and whether you attend full-time or part-time). You cannot receive Pell Grant funds from more than one college at a time.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants

A Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is for undergraduates with exceptional financial need — that is, students with the lowest EFCs — and gives priority to students who receive Federal Pell Grants. The FSEOG program is administered directly by the financial aid office at each participating school.

To get an FSEOG, you must fill out the FAFSA so your college can determine how much financial need you have and will award FSEOGs to students that have the most need. The FSEOG does not need to be repaid, except under certain circumstances. You can receive between $100 and $4,000 a year, depending on your financial need, when you apply, the amount of other aid you get, and the availability of funds at your school.

Federal Direct (Stafford) Loan Program 

Direct Stafford Loans are the most common federal student loans. Available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, these education loans are originated by the federal government and feature fixed interest rates, a 1.069% origination fee and various repayment options. There are two types of Direct Stafford Loans:

Subsidized Stafford Loans are available to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. The government pays the interest on these loans while the student is in school, six months after leaving school and during a period deferment.

Unsubsidized Stafford Loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students with or without financial need. You are responsible for paying the interest on a Direct Unsubsidized Loan during all periods. If you choose not to pay the interest while you are in school and during grace periods and deferment periods, your interest will accumulate and will be added to the principal amount of your loan.

Federal Direct Loan (PLUS) Program

PLUS loans are federal loans that graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students can use to help pay for college or career school. The U.S Department of Education is your lender and you must not have an adverse credit history.

If you are eligible for a Direct PLUS Loan, you will be required to sign a Direct PLUS Loan Master Promissory Note, agreeing to the terms of the loan. Those who haven’t previously received a PLUS loan will also be required to complete entrance counseling. There will also be a loan fee.

Along with those types of aid, depending on your university, there are also Student Employment Work Study, Graduate Assistantships, and public/private scholarships.

Tips for Paying off Student Loan Debt

Be strategic

Tactics like creating a budget and sticking to it, paying on time, and understanding which loans are best to pay off first are just a few strategic ways to help pay off your loans.

Refinancing your loan

Refinancing involves repaying an older debt by taking on a new loan, with fresh terms. It is done to allow a borrower to obtain a better interest term and rate. Make sure you research lenders and choose the one best for you.

Avoid repayment programs

Almost all federal student loan repayment programs are geared toward decreasing payments by lengthening the term of the loan. This means it’ll take longer to pay off student loans. It’s generally advised to avoid these types of programs.

Set up automatic payments

Setting up automatic payments ensures you never forget to pay for the month. It also takes any indecision out of the equation and makes it harder for you to change your mind too.

Take full advantage of tax deductions and credits

If you’re paying off student loans, you’re likely eligible for the student loan interest deduction on your federal taxes. If your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is less than $80,000, there is a special deduction allowed for paying interest on a student loan (also known as an education loan) used for higher education.

Tax credits can be even more valuable than tax deductions. An education credit helps with the cost of higher education by reducing the amount of tax owed on your tax return.

5 Common Trans Myths We Need to Bust

Happy Pride Month, everyone! The month is almost over but before it ends, we wanted to dispel just a few myths surrounding trans people and the issues they face. Let’s begin!

1. Being transgender is about adhering to a strict binary.

When one hears the term “transgender” they might think it means transitioning from one gender to another. However, that’s not necessarily the case. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, gender is a bit more flexible than that. In addition to identifying as a man or woman, people identify as both, neither or somewhere in between. Thinking about gender in more complex and nuanced ways will help bridge the gap in understanding trans identity.

2. Transgender people using their preferred bathroom will cause spikes in sexual assault cases.

As “bathroom bills” continue to pop up around the U.S. in an attempt to lower sexual assault risks, much debate has been sparked around the idea that letting trans people use the bathroom of their choosing is dangerous. The argument that having protections in place for trans people who want to use their preferred bathroom will encourage sexual predators to use those protections to their own advantages. However, there appears to be no proof that anti-discrimination laws regarding gender identity has led to an increase in sexual assault cases in bathrooms. This CNN article debunking that argument actually states that trans people are more likely to be harassed in bathrooms, which brings us to the next myth.

3. Trans people don’t face violence and discrimination.

Representation of trans people is still very sparse in our media today and there is very little coverage of the many acts of violence perpetrated against them. This GLAAD article continuously updates the number of trans people that are killed in 2017. The number is currently at 13. Last year there were 27 trans people killed, the overwhelmingly majority of them being women of color. In Georgia alone, 27% of respondents in this 2015 survey say they have experienced some form of housing discrimination. 34% of respondents report facing some kind of mistreatment at their job from being fired to being harassed verbally.

4. All trans people want/need to transition to “match” their gender identity.

Not all trans people want to undergo surgery to align themselves with their identity. The process of transitioning is often more complicated than we might realize. Aside from the health care issues that can pop up like making sure your insurance will cover your medical costs, there’s also a lot of legal work that goes into transitioning. Many people can’t afford it or simply don’t want to go through the trouble.

5. Identifying as trans is a mental health issue.

Although identifying as trans stopped being classified as a mental illness a few years ago, this myth is still perpetuated. This Time article suggests that the social factors and potential of facing violence contributes more to mental illness than solely identifying as transgender. Instead, many trans people often experience gender dysphoria, which is emotional and mental distress in regard to their gender. However, this is not an issue that only trans people experience but is something that can affect anyone regardless of their gender identity.

There is still much conversation and work to be done in understanding and protecting trans people. This is just a small way in which Georgia Shift is contributing. We hope everyone continues to have a safe and happy pride month!