Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Young Voters Unite!

Since the Americans declared their independence in 1776, politics and big government have been built up to be a scary and confusing figure in the eyes of the youth. So it’s no wonder that when a young person turns eighteen, registering to vote isn’t at the top of their to-do list. The mission of the Young Voter’s Club at El Cerrito High is to demystify the intimidation behind the responsibility of voting. My goal is to educate and empower kids at my school so that they recognize the privilege of voting and take advantage of it. As cliché as it sounds, the youth of today are the future of tomorrow and it’s important we are prepared to step up and advocate for ourselves and generations to come. I believe it’s crucial that the youth of today is educated in the issues at hand and that they are able to have a voice in politics that will effect them for the rest of their lives. I’m sure the generations before us expect responsibility and capability in the new leaders of the world.

The Young Voters Club is set up so that students at El Cerrito High understand where their right to vote came from, why it’s important, and how to exercise it. We are lucky the year of the club’s foundation is also in a major election year (2012). The club will open when school reconvenes in mid August. The A.P. United States History (APUSH) teacher, Mr. Jimenez, has graciously given the club his time at lunch once a week to meet and assist in the understanding of the ballot and the supervision of the club. The first and most important goal of the club is to get every member who is eligible, registered to vote. Members who won’t be eighteen in time for the election can still learn how to vote and participate in all other club activities.  In the time between the first day of school and Election Day, I hope to have every member registered, well versed on the major issues of the campaign, and aware of where and how to vote in their hometown.  After Election Day, the club continues with furthering education in the history of voting and the finer details of being an active member of the American political environment. I intend to host a viewing of Iron Jawed Angles, a movie about women’s fight for the vote. I also will take advantage of our close proximity to U.C. Berkeley by contacting a representative from each of the political party clubs and hold a panel in which high school students can learn more about each party and it’s stances on major issues. Guest speakers such as local government officials are also an obtainable resource for both support and education.

Of course getting the attention of a teenager is always difficult. Some students have already shown interest and excitement about the prospect of voting and the club in general but I want to include as many students as possible. It’s important to appeal to the student’s sense of entitlement. These students are essentially being told what to do with no representation if they choose not to vote and that’s something that when realized, will motivate them to get started in the process. Food is also not to under-estimated. The power of a few red, white and blue cookies is enormous when working with teenagers. Being a rising senior presents another issue in the Action Plan. When I graduate from high school I would like for the club to continue but because most students eligible to vote are seniors as well, finding someone to take over the club could be a challenge. My plan is to have Mr. Jimenez keep an eye open for a promising junior APUSH student to shadow me as I direct the club and then take over when I move on.

I turn eighteen in October and when someone learns this about me, they are taken aback when I exclaim my excitement to vote. But I am honored and grateful to have the right to vote and I want others to get excited about voting and realize the privilege they’ve been given. According to the Young Democrats of America, by 2015, this generation will make up one third of the electorate. The Young Voter’s Club at El Cerrito High School wants to make an impact so that our one third are informed and excited to participate in the political world.

On the last day of the Leadership Institute every student is required to present the Action Plan they’ve been working on all session. I was nervous when I first stepped up to the podium in front of 8 other students and attentive parents. But once I started talking about my plan, I got so excited that all my original trepidation melted away. I am so proud of the work I accomplished at Brown and I can't wait to implement my Action Plan in the months to come.

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