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Youth Groups Lure Young Activists

May 13, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Joseph Barisonzi heads a local association in Minneapolis and has spent countless hours trying to revitalize his neighborhood, fighting for everything from curbing crime to making sure grocers carried unspoiled food. And he’s only 27.

Two youth groups want other young people to be moved to action like Barisonzi.

Rock the Vote, founded eight years ago by members of the recording industry, and Do Something, a community leadership organization co-founded by ``Melrose Place″ actor Andrew Shue, were awarded $4.7 million in grants Tuesday from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The money will finance a campaign in September to lure young people into political activism.

In addition to a publicity campaign, the groups will offer one-week training sessions to community organizations in several pilot cities, including Washington, Newark, N.J., New York and Atlanta, before expanding nationwide. The training sessions will teach organizations how to reach and recruit young adult volunteers.

``We’re up against the toughest challenge. Talk won’t get people to go and walk on Washington like it used to,″ Shue said. ``Before, it was clear _ we’re fighting for civil rights. Now the issues are so diverse, so involved.″

In the 1996 presidential elections, 32 percent of people age 18 to 24 cast ballots, down from 43 percent in 1992.

A telephone poll found 37 percent of people ages 15-29 volunteered their time in the last year, but only 3 percent participated in an organization focused on politics, elections or political issues. The national survey of 1,002 people of those ages was conducted by Princeton Survey Research. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

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