This article explores the origins of youth engagement in school, community and democracy. Specifically, it considers the role of psychosocial or non-cognitive abilities, like grit or perseverance. Using a novel original large-scale longitudinal survey of students linked to school administrative records and a variety of modeling techniques – including sibling, twin and individual fixed effects – the study finds that psychosocial abilities are a strong predictor of youth civic engagement. Gritty students miss less class time and are more engaged in their schools, are more politically efficacious, are more likely to intend to vote when they become eligible, and volunteer more. Our work highlights the value of psychosocial attributes in the political socialization of young people.