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Sources: Kelly Warren,;
and Thomas Vontz, 785-532-5927,
News release prepared by: Kristin Hodges, 785-532-6415,

Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009


MANHATTAN -- More than any generation in the past, Millennials are compassionate about current events, and with encouragement, this demographic group could truly make a difference, according to a Kansas State University graduate student who is studying the Millennial generation and how to foster their civic learning through an educational environment.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of Millennials is their spirit of volunteerism -- a trait educators should encourage through classroom activities, said Kelly Warren, doctoral student in curriculum and instruction, Lenexa.

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, were born between 1980 and 2003 and have been described as being tech-savvy, multitaskers and having an automatic sense of entitlement, Warren said.

But Generation Y members also are the most ethnically diverse generation in our nation's history, prefer directness instead of subtlety and want to create action instead of observe, Warren said. Unlike previous generations, Generation Y has an engaged citizenship viewpoint rather than duty-based citizenship, meaning that instead of focusing on duties like voting, Generation Y stresses alternative ways that encourage a socially engaged public, she said.

In the education system, Warren said educators could empower Generation Y members to act on their passion for local, national and world issues.

"Kelly's research is interesting, timely and important," said Thomas Vontz, assistant professor of elementary education at K-State and Warren's adviser. "This area seems even more relevant and important today than even a couple of years ago – especially after the election of a president who targeted youth and utilized new technologies in his campaign."

Warren said educators should start with focusing on how to better communicate with Millennials. The students' heavy use of the Internet can have a place in the classroom through the incorporation of podcasts, Web sites, blogs, YouTube and Google Docs, she said.

Teachers also should incorporate current events into the classroom. Warren said when students find material to be relevant, they pay attention because it's meaningful to them and they know it matters. In addition, she said educators should model service and raise awareness in their classrooms to foster Generation Y's care for issues.

"This could be as simple as them sharing aspects of their life, things they are doing to help others or help the planet -- like volunteering, turning off the lights, using cloth bags at the grocery store or eco-friendly water bottles," Warren said.

Educators should pick an issue to inform their students about and create class projects revolving around that issue, she said.

Vontz said Warren's interest in generational change and civic learning began as she was preparing to become a social studies teacher, and she was able to use her ideas while a teacher at Raytown South High School in Raytown, Mo.

Warren encouraged her students to turn a traditional school dance into a dance for a cause -- specifically to raise awareness about human trafficking today. While Warren said she brought the idea to the students, they developed more ideas and thought of ways to raise money for several different organizations.

"Generation Y students' minds are pregnant, ready to give birth to an explosion of innovative and creative ideas for how to solve the worlds' problems," Warren said. "If we can give them a starting place for motivation and encouragement along the way, there's no limit to what they can do."

Besides the education system, Warren said it is everyone's responsibility to empower Generation Y, just as it's important to empower other generations and ourselves to create the best possible environment for all. She said people should start with causes they want to be involved in and organize events to help those specific issues.

Warren gave a presentation on the importance of empowering Generation Y to address local, national and global issues at the Kansas Council for Social Studies Conference in October 2008. She is interested in developing a dissertation proposal that seeks to answer questions about how to use new technologies and learning styles in relation to civic learning.