Fitted with Democracy Prep’s signature “I can’t vote, but you can!” t-shirts, scholars around our network have been taking to the streets of Harlem, the Bronx, D.C., Camden, and Baton Rouge with a focus on joining in a national initiative known as Get Out The Vote (GOTV) to spread the importance of voting in local and national elections.
Recently, I traveled to Yankee Stadium to get a closer look at the GOTV efforts of a class of tenth-graders from Democracy Prep Endurance High School lead by chemistry teacher, Amanda Henry.
These scholars weren’t shy in the slightest and really took charge as they approached passersby. I was caught off guard myself when one of the scholars asked me if I was registered to vote. It then suddenly dawned on me that this would actually be the very first presidential election I could participate in since becoming 18 years old two years prior. I increased their registered voter count, but I feel I also gave them the satisfaction of knowing they added another voice to our country and that their efforts were really making a difference.
Skye C., a current 10th grader at the high school spoke with me about the importance of youth getting informed and taking initiative when it comes to political topics.
“I think it’s very important because some kids don’t know, so they have to be informed about what’s happening in the world since it can affect them when they’re older,” she said. “They might not think it affects them now, but once they turn 18 they will.”
I also had the chance to talk to Jeimary E., another 10th grader, and discuss being proactive and the weight of influence. “Our parents raised us a certain way, so I want to be able to learn from everyone around me about how I can stay active,” she said to me. “This way, later on, I will be able to cast a vote and influence our political system.”
As citizens of the United States, it is not an obligation to vote but it is clear that Jeimary has learned, with the help of Democracy Prep, that you should strive to be the change you want to see instead of accepting change that is thrust upon you. Age may prevent the younger population from physically voting but GOTV is an example of how age limitation does not dictate a scholar’s ability to still have a positive impact on his or her community.
With a pivotal presidential election happening today, we are all probably wondering, “What does the future of our nation look like?” It looks like GOTV. It looks like students being active citizens and pushing the envelope in regards to their political influence.
And most importantly, it looks like exposing the youth to the reality of things and teaching them how to socially engage in these issues, which I thought Ms. Henry summed up nicely with this quote: “ It’s a great thing for them to be doing. Not only does it teach them advocacy for themselves, their school and their country but it also teaches them how to interact with all different kinds of people around them. It teaches them different social skills they would not normally get staying in a classroom all day.”
About the Author:
Tarar Richardson is a graduate of Democracy Prep Charter High School. He’s a junior in college studying Mathematics, and spending the semester writing about our scholars as the Alumni worker on the Communications team.