With election fast approaching, students under 18 stay politically engaged

From letter writing to serving as election judges, students find ways to participate in political process



The group Students Demand Action Wilmette gathers for a post-card writing event

With the election coming up soon, many people are already voting or preparing to vote on Nov. 3. Even students who aren’t yet eligible to vote are finding creative ways to stay civically engaged. 

One way high school students can get involved is by working as election judges at a local polling place.  Senior Max Russo, 17, plans to do that.  

“The polarization in our political climate is very concerning, and being able to facilitate people to vote will hopefully encourage people reluctant to be active in politics to voice their opinions in a proper, safe environment,” he said. 

Russo also stays active by discussing politics with others. 

“I talk to people about issues, as well as formulate my own scope of ideas. Whether it appears in my friends’ conversations or my family’s, I find it helpful to explore politics on my own to keep up with the people around me.”  

Senior Catherine Richards, 17, has been motivated to stay engaged since a young age. 

“I have always been interested in politics. A few years ago, I began to write letters to my representatives on the issues that concern me the most. Every representative has sent me a letter in return, and their responses have really helped me to see the importance of leadership, and I’ve done my best to support the causes they’re fighting for,” said Richards.

Richards and a friend started a Student Demand Action group (SDA), a national gun violence prevention initiative that involves students from across the country fighting for stricter gun legislation.

“Some of our events have been a Wear Orange Zoom honoring victims of gun violence, a toiletry drive for families struggling due to COVID-19, and a letter-writing project to incarcerated women who’ve been victims of gun violence by domestic abusers.” 

Richards is also involved in the Illinois Virtual Field Office and through that, the Student Demand Action Group has registered over 100,000 young voters throughout the country.  

“With our SDA Wilmette group, we have called voters in Florida, urging them to vote for gun-sense candidates, and written postcards to voters in Georgia and Florida. The 2020 election is crucial for electing leaders who will implement safer gun laws,” said Richards.

Some students seek political internships to be active. Junior Annabel Miller interns for Congressman Sean Casten of the 6th district. 

“His opponent stands against pretty much everything I believe in, so that is one of the reasons I wanted to help his campaign,” Miller said. “The main reason, though, is that (Casten) is a scientist. He understands the gravity of the climate crisis and has the experience in the science field to combat it, and that is his priority.” 

As an intern, Miller calls residents of the district and asks about their plans for voting. She also takes on other tasks, such as recruiting volunteers to work at campaigns, helping with a donor database, and working phone banks on weekends. 

Miller believes that Americans shouldn’t face obstacles involving race, sexuality, gender identity, or healthcare access.

“The more I learned about what happens in our government, the more frustrated I began to feel with it. It became clear to me how many Americans didn’t have the same privilege I have access to on a daily basis, and that disturbed me,” she said. “I didn’t get why I should have access to so many opportunities just because of the family I got lucky enough to be born into. I stay civically engaged because I want to make sure that I’m not the only person who has those opportunities.”