A group of students took to one of Ogle County’s busiest intersections with signs on Monday in a final push to get passersby to fill out the 2020 census.
Oregon High School’s social entrepreneurship class was at all four corners of Illinois 64 and Illinois 2 hoping to push Ogle County’s current 76 percent response rate higher with little time remaining before the deadline.
The state of Illinois is at a 70 percent response rate. Students in the class have worked on raising the census count since last year.
“We decided it would be something important to work with because it impacts us for the next 10 years of our lives,” OHS Junior Abby Duke said. “We want to get that as high as possible since we’ve had so much time to fill it out and because of everything going on this year we need the funding for the future.”
The census deadline has been extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Duke said that the census offers $1,700 per person for the next 10 years. Every person that isn’t counted is over $10,000 lost.
“You won’t count again for 10 years,” Duke said. “It impacts little brothers, sisters, nephews and even children. If they’re in preschool right now, they’re not going to have funding for them until they’re in high school.”
COVID-19 has made the census harder and easier to fill out, Duke said. Respondents have been able to fill it out online and over the phone. But not as many people have been able to go door-to-door to track down nonrespondents due to minimizing the possible spread of the virus.
Duke has been working with OHS’s federally recognized’ complete count committee since her sophomore year.
“It’s helped me with my personal growth in public speaking,” Duke said. “I also did not know about the census before I started doing this. This made me realize how big of an impact it was. We didn’t learn about it in school. We weren’t taught that it funds us.”
The social entrepreneurship course is part of Oregon’s three-course changemaker pathway aimed at making change in the community. Technically, the social entrepreneurship course is supposed to involve the students starting their own businesses, which they’ll be doing in coming weeks.
Aaron Sitze is the instructor of the pathway’s courses. He said his students weren’t quite ready to give up on getting the census count higher.
“I have some of the same students again in social entrepreneurship and we just weren’t satisfied with 76 percent,” Sitze said. “We cooked up this idea last week for a last push to try to get those rates up. It’s the last chance we’ve got.”