About Us


Mikva Challenge develops youth to be informed, empowered, and active citizens and community leaders.  We do this by engaging youth in action civics, an authentic and transformative learning process built on youth voice and youth expertise. 

A Blast from Mikva Past

What is Mikva Challenge?

Mikva Challenge is a nonpartisan 501(c)3 organization that prioritizes the development of civic leadership in underserved Chicago high school youth.  Mikva Challenge was founded in 1997 as a tribute to former White House Counsel, Judge and U.S. Congressman Abner Mikva and his wife Zoe, a lifelong education activist. We help low-income Chicago youth become meaningful actors in politics and, by doing so, we honor the Mikvas’ decades of inspiring young adults to embark on careers in public service and politics.

We are ambitious youth workers and advocates; since 2000, Mikva Challenge has trained over 40,000 young people through our elections, activism and policymaking programs.  Through the Mikva process, young people connect with peers, adults and political issues, strategize about how to win their issue or campaign and take action to become real political participants.  These youth tell us that they feel they have a “voice” now and report having a greater desire to vote, campaign, organize, lobby, and even run for office.  Perhaps most importantly, these Mikva youth now believe that Chicago is their city and that they have the power, knowledge and skills to make it a more just and equitable place – both now and in the future.


Mikva Challenge envisions a world where:

  • Citizens are informed, empowered, and active
  • Youth voice is valued in decision making
  • Civic leaders reflect the nation’s diversity
  • Action civics is prioritized in education


Mikva Challenge adheres to the following core values when implementing our mission:

  • We believe that by providing high quality programming in under-resourced communities and schools, we can eliminate the civic achievement gap.
  • We believe that if youth voice is included in decision-making that policy makers will make more informed decisions.
  • We believe that the best way to learn democracy is to do democracy.  
  • We believe action civics is an essential tool to help young people develop the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to be informed, empowered, and active citizens.
  • We believe youth are not apathetic, and that by inviting them into the political process they will become powerful and thoughtful citizens.
  • We believe that Mikva Challenge always needs to be nonpartisan to allow young people to formulate their own opinions and choose the candidates and issues they want to support.  


  • Provide youth with authentic and transformative democratic experiences;
  • Develop agency and future commitment to civic action;
  • Provide youth with skills and knowledge to be effective citizens;
  • Increase exposure, demand, and access to action civics.  
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