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York Event Discussed the Importance of Civic Engagement

By Angel Aguirre, York Journalism Major

York College hosted a virtual Executive Leadership Breakfast, featuring Sheena Wright who encouraged the community to partake in the 2020 Census.

York College hosted a virtual Executive Leadership Breakfast earlier this semester, featuring Sheena Wright,  President and CEO of the United Way of New York (UWNYC) as the keynote speaker. UWNYC is a non-profit organization that connects with different government agencies, foundations, and community-based organizations to help low-income New Yorkers. 

Wright talked about the importance of the NYC 2020 census and how “civil participation” can be a way to help low-income communities gain funding.

She originally felt there was a great sense of urgency this year as the deadline for the census had been shortened by a month by the Trump Administration. However, the deadline for the census has been continuously pushed back because of COVID-19, making the final deadline October 31. 

Participation in the census and the process this year was particularly urgent. She saw the future of the United States in the balance. Wright noted that the theme this year centers around civil interaction in order to promote better decisions in the United States in the near future. 

“The Census also distributes Congressional seats,” said Wright. “It will determine how many people can represent us in Congress.” 

The 2020 census will have a huge impact on how much funding more needy neighborhoods would receive for basic services. Wright also discussed the economic impact college-aged students can have on the census. She felt everyone had to get involved in order to get the desired results. 

Over $1.5 trillion dollars is distributed throughout different federal programs in the United States. The distribution of the money is determined by the response rate in the census. 

According to recent statistics, about 64% of those taking part in the census are self-reported. New York City seems to fall short of that self-response rate, according to Wright. She felt this puts many communities at a disadvantage because not enough people are participating in the reporting process.  

In order to combat this problem, Wright said participation among younger people was key. She hoped that York students and others around CUNY would take part. 

"If we close the opportunity gap, and make sure that our young people are resourced and have the right education and other support that they need," said Wright. "We will grow the GDP by half a trillion dollars.”  

New York City is a location that features people from many different backgrounds. As a result, a number of these people are apprehensive about taking part in the census because participation might open them up to unwanted scrutiny by the IMF. 

Wright addressed the fears about exposure to immigration officers in her comments. She was clear to say that the census is seen as aggregated information, and individuals will not be singled for their citizenship status. 

This helped her push the message of having the younger generation become pioneers for their families and encourage them to fill out the forms themselves to get the most accurate response possible. 

“Young people are key,” said Wright.  “What we have found in immigrant communities is often that young people are translators in their families.” 

One of Wright’s final talking points was how census education should be taught in elementary school. She said it will allow younger generations to understand how society works. It should translate into more participation in the future.  

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