Democracy is a verb.



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 teacher and lifelong education activist.

We began as a small pilot program with an all-volunteer staff running an electoral engagement project in four schools. But since then, Mikva has grown this strategy of real-life democracy education into five robust “Action Civics” programs that serve over 6,000 high school students and 130 teachers at 110 schools across the Chicago Metropolitan region. Our three main program areas – youth electoral participation, youth policy-making, and youth community problem solving – teach young people civic knowledge and leadership skills while transforming their attitudes about political participation. These programs focus on helping young people achieve success in schools, in their careers, and in life.

I was very apathetic to politics before because I just didn’t care. I didn’t think my voice mattered. Through Mikva, I learned that one person can make a difference.
– Mikva Alum Kevin Ng


  • 1998

    40 students from Kelvyn Park and Bowen High Schools volunteer as campaign interns.

  • 1999

    The “Jack Marco Roast” is Mikva’s first fundraiser.

  • 2000

    Mikva launches Student Election Judge program. 100 Mikva students attend Iowa Caucus.

  • 2001

    Mikva hosts first ever Civics Fair. Mikva students attend Inauguration of President George W. Bush.

  • 2002

    Student Voices program (now Democracy in Action) brings classroom activism and electoral participation to 30 new high schools. Mikva students advocate for election reform in wake of Florida recount. Public service summer internship program begins.

  • 2003

    Mikva moves into its own office space. Mikva receives a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant to start the Youth Innovation Fund (YIF), a youth philanthropy group that funds youth civic engagement and activism in Chicago.

  • 2004

    120 Mikva students travel to New Hampshire and Wisconsin for the 2004 Presidential Election. Mikva students hold 2 Senate forums featuring a young candidate named Barack Obama. running for U.S. senate

  • 2005

    Mikva launches the Youth Advisory Council (now Student Advisory Council) to serve as policy advisors to Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan. Mikva wins Service Learning Agency of the Year award.

  • 2006

    Mikva students travel to Springfield to advocate for improved school funding and help host a rally for thousands of students.

  • 2007

    Mikva launches Peace and Leadership Councils in 3 Chicago schools to promote youth voice in school policies and decision-making.

  • 2008

    Mikva students travel to Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, Minnesota, Indiana and Wisconsin to campaign during the 2008 Presidential Election season. Mikva student elections judges number 2,539, comprising nearly 20% of all election judges in the City of Chicago on Nov. 4, 2008.

  • 2009

    26 Mikva students witness Barack Obama inaugurated as 44th President of the United States.

  • 2010

    Mikva launches the Center for Action Civics (CFAC), the curriculum and professional development arm of the organization. Ron Huberman, CEO of CPS, funds the Education Council recommendation to pilot Student Voice Committees in 5 CPS Schools.

  • 2011

    Mikva hosts the 9th Annual Civics Fair. Over 120 students present their action projects on issues facing Chicago communities. Mikva hosts the Youth Voices Mayoral Candidate Forum with 250 students on the Chicago Tonight show.

  • 2012

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel approves the Mayoral Youth Commission’s recommendation to pilot the CTA Free Fare program for low-income students in 5 schools.

  • 2013

    Mikva hosts the first ever Youth Solutions Congress. Over 400 youth gather to discuss and vote on the top 15 solutions to improve health, education, employment, safety and recreation in the city of Chicago. Mikva launches the Juvenile Justice Council to provide youth input on policies and programs involving young people and the criminal justice system.

  • 2014

    Mikva celebrates 15th anniversary with a gala event featuring Ab and Zoe Mikva Civic Leadership honorees Jonathan Alter, Barbara Goodman Manilow, and Alcott High School.

  • 2015

    Mikva Challenge expands to Southern California and Washington D.C.

  • 2016

    Judge Abner Mikva, co-founder of Mikva Challenge passes away at 90.

  • 2017

    Mikva expands the City Wide Youth Council program to 9 Councils in Chicago. These Councils provide youth the opportunity to serve as policy advisers to city leaders and elected officials.


students from 117 schools nationwide presented speeches and/or worked on civic action projects


students campaigned during the 2015-16 Election Season


young people served in the Chicagoland area, California and Washington DC


of Mikva alumni are registered voters, vs. only 53% of 18-29 yr. olds nationwide


of Mikva alumni encourage their friends and family to be politically engaged, vs. only 35% of 18-29 yr. olds nationwide


teachers participate in Mikva Challenge programs across the country.


of Mikva alumni continue to volunteer in their communities, vs. only 36% of 18-29 yr. olds nationwide


Mikva students serve as election judges each election cycle

200 S Michigan Ave.
Suite 1000
Chicago, IL 60604
(312) 863-6340

Mikva Challenge DC
1220 L St NW, Suite 605
Washington, DC 20005
Action Civics CA
10401 Venice Blvd #721
Los Angeles, CA 90034
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