Campaign involvement provides political outlet for students


Feature photo by Michelle Wu

Cassidy Viox

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]inally, 51 years ago, the United States acted on its ideals and lifted the Fifteenth Amendment voting restrictions of African Americans, encouraging all citizens to exercise democracy. The Eighteenth Amendment, however, restricts the age of voters to citizens above the age of 18.
This doesn’t mean students can’t be infatuated with the political ambiance that filled America during election season. High schoolers openly supported candidates through ‘Make America Great Again’ hats and shared their opinions on social media, even though they could not vote. Dr. Dave Bridge of University of Baylor said when somebody is politically involved early in life, they are more likely to be involved later in life, as well. High school participation may be a key to engaged citizenry.
“Participation need not involve partisan behavior,” Dr. Bridge said. “You don’t have to donate to a campaign or advocate for an issue or candidate. High school students can work the polling stations or participating in get-out-the-vote drives that encourage voters of both parties to show up on Election Day.”
[heading size=”11″]Internships provide new opportunities to students involved in politics[/heading] In addition to flashy apparel and Twitter arguments, students such as Junior Adam Richenberger played a more active role in determining the outcome of the elections by getting personally involved in the campaigns. Many local or state campaigns offer high school internships. In these internships, students can work alongside politicians as if they were regular adults. Dr. Karen Alter of Northwestern University said involvement, such as the internships, can teach students the importance of exercising citizenship.
Students need to learn that they actually can affect the world around them,” Dr. Alter said. “High school can teach students the importance of engaging in politics [and] help create the world future students will want to live in.”
Richenberger saw working for a campaign as a great opportunity to work for something that mattered to him and applied for an internship with Governor Eric Greitens. Over the summer, Richenberger worked about eight hours per week and performed various tasks for Greitens, such as constructing signs, knocking on doors, talking to people around Columbia and answering questions they had.
“My favorite part was that I got to talk to a lot of different people, many of whom I had never met,” Richenberger said. “I also got to meet a lot of people and became close to them. The atmosphere was busy, but the people I worked with made it enjoyable.”
Richenberger said the experience was rewarding. He believes his work made an impact in the outcome regardless of the capacity of his job. Despite being the only high schooler working for Greitens, Richenberger felt like any other person there.

“Civic engagement is essential for democracy,” Dr. Alter said. “Students need to know how important voting and collective action is.””

The opportunity to work for a political campaign opened doors for Richenberger and provided him with an idea of what he wants to do in the future.
“The job gave me a way to experience what politics would be like for both the candidate and his staff,” Richenberger said. “It gave me an idea if I ever chose to pursue that path. I would recommend getting involved, especially if you have a taste for politics. I was able to meet some well-known politicians, as well as Eric Greitens.”
Another politician who provided an outlet for politically interested high schoolers was Stephen Webber, who ran for state senate and lost to Caleb Rowden. Senior Chase Ford was a paid volunteer for Webber and worked throughout the summer. Ford canvassed for Webber during his period as a volunteer which included running surveys, finding what issues were most important to citizens and giving out yard signs.
“The very first house I knocked on, the man said he would vote for Webber because I was the first person to come and ask for their vote,” Ford said.
During Ford’s volunteer work with Webber, everybody set goals and did their fair share, which provided a tranquil and enjoyable work environment. Despite being disappointed by the outcome of the election, Ford recommends getting involved in campaigns such as Webber’s.
“[Canvassing] allows you to have a voice in your government, which is really important on a local level,” Ford said. “I also got paid and [got] a letter of recommendation from Webber, which were some added bonuses.”
Experiencing politicians first-hand gives a fresh perspective to students who may not know politics aside from commercials and “breaking news”’ headlines.
“Civic engagement is essential for democracy,” Dr. Alter said. “Students need to know how important voting and collective action is.”