Lissete Cisneros is a senior in Animo Pat Brown Charter High School's democracy lab.

"I want to inform a lot of children and parents," she said. "You do have a voice and go say it and go do something."

As part of the curriculum, students in the lab will register members of their community to vote. Some will work as poll workers. They will take a lobbying trip to Sacramento to voice their opinions about issues they care about.

The lab is a new pilot program funded by the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) Teaching Tolerance Grant. If the project is successful, SPLC wants to introduce it to classrooms around the country.

“The idea is to sort of turn the classroom inside out,” said Joel Synder, the advisor to the democracy lab. “The sort of civic practices that students build when they’re in their late teens when they’re in their high school years, are the things that set the groundwork for how they will live moving forward.” 

“A lot of civic education that happens is the wrong kind of civic education,” said Maureen Costello, Director of the Teaching Tolerance Grant. “One of our jobs is to help that emerging generation take power and become empowered and become effective in a sense because they’re the one going to inherit all the achievements and all the problems.” 

Reporting by Madeline Ottilie.