Youth in Politics

Can youth make a difference in politics?

Mason McKenna, Staff Writer

Some people assume teenagers find American politics boring, but is this really the case? The Hawk’s Eye interviewed social studies teachers Shelby Taylor and Breanna Francis to find an answer.

One way to get involved in politics inside of school is to take part in school elections.

“If you want to see change in your school, that is a form of politics,” Taylor said. You can also be involved outside of school. “I think the biggest starting point for youth activism is community service,” Francis said.

“You don’t have to have a position or a role in politics,” Taylor said. “There is a way for you to be involved in politics that is not directly involved in politics.” Simple things like talking about politics with friends can help get a different perspective out there.

Teens can even make political advancements at the dinner table. “An active youth population tends to ignite activity in their parents,” Francis said. “The parents are more likely to be engaged.”

Both teachers agreed that one of the best things youth can do is educate themselves. Francis mentioned the importance of both adult and youth being educated when it comes to politics.

Taylor, “would like more government or politics taught in younger levels.” That way, students’ first exposure to politics would not be government class in high school.Why are some students choosing to express their beliefs now?

“I think they’re tired of the way it’s been,” Taylor said. “I think that they could see the change and right now they can’t see it.” Youth can be viewed as immature to some people but this is mostly because they want change faster than previous generations are accustomed to.

Francis said, “For a lot of kids, you have been taught that your voice doesn’t matter until you are an adult.” Many opportunities in government are closed to youth because of their age. Therefore, youth can find themselves disregarded by many politicians.

 “Age is just something we put to limit ourselves,” Taylor said. Getting involved in youth court, government clubs, school elections and community service can make a difference in the community.

Zoey Schneeberg, a senior at Olathe East, interns for politician Brandon Woodard. Woodard is currently running for the Kansas House of Representatives in District 30. Schneeberg can also be found volunteering behind the scenes of Laura Kelly’s campaign for governor and Sharice Davids’ campaign for congress.

Schneeberg’s main responsibility for Woodard’s campaign is contacting voters. She also makes calls, knocks on doors, handles data entry, and holds phone-banks. She does all this to gain a better overall perspective on what the general public wants in politics.

“This is my favorite part of any campaign: getting to talk to real people and have a conversation about what they believe needs to change,” she said. “Talking to people and making politics about more than just a party is so amazing.”Schneeberg is a great example of a student latching onto politics and enjoying herself. She also encourages teenagers that are thinking of starting out in politics to go try it.

“It doesn’t matter how much experience or knowledge you have; all that matters is you wanting to make a difference,” she said. “We need more young people involved.”

Many doors to the political world are closed to teenagers which makes getting involved challenging. Minimum age requirements for voting and running for office force teenagers to be creative with how they want to impact government.

“I can’t even vote yet and that can be frustrating; feeling like I don’t have a voice. But volunteering on campaigns gives me that voice. If I can convince one person to go to the polls and vote, that means the world to me,” Schneeberg said.

Schneeberg doesn’t know if she wants a job in government, but it remains clear to her she will always want to participate in some sort of campaign.

“I have learned so much about the world and made some of the best memories ever thanks to Brandon. So, please get involved!” Schneeberg said.