The world has no shortage of problems. My generation, Gen Z, is being handed a society that is grappling with wealth inequality, voter suppression, healthcare injustice, climate crises, and much more. Especially during this pandemic, the future has never seemed so bleak and hopeless.

It shouldn’t be like this. It doesn’t have to be like this. Despite all the challenges we face, one of the great gifts of America is our democracy. Through our representative government, we the people have the power to tackle these immense problems. As Americans, we have the power to change our country in meaningful ways via the ballot box, our collective voices, or the sacrifice of our lives. Our first inclination is to think of change as something that’s part of the country’s past and not its present. As we remember and honor our nation’s founders, Union soldiers, and Civil Rights Activists—the men and women, who sacrificed so much to bring our country closer to a more perfect society for all—we must follow their example.

After all, their victories for democracy extend far beyond the pages of our history textbooks. Just last year, we saw organizers in Missouri ensure the expansion of Medicaid, expanding people’s access to healthcare. In Florida, organizers helped codify a $15 minimum wage into law, increasing economic opportunity for millions. And in Colorado, voters established a program for paid medical and family leave. In 2020, these civic leaders ushered in a fairer and more just world, saving many lives with their work.

Helping Young People

You may be wondering how you can help us, young people yearning for change, to become civic leaders capable of tackling any issue impacting our communities from fighting climate change to fixing the pothole down the road. Three years ago, I struggled with the same question and ultimately joined a campaign. I helped organize and recruit my fellow students and friends to take action on behalf of causes that we were passionate about. We knocked on doors and talked to thousands of voters about the importance of the upcoming election. It was an incredible experience that has forever changed my outlook on politics, government, and power.

Fortunately, there is an amazing opportunity for high school students that will shape them into civic leaders long before they attend college or pursue other types of postsecondary education. It’s called Civics 101. This year-long, training program in advocacy, organizing, and leadership, is part of My School Votes, an action-oriented civics program run by When We All Vote’s My School Votes program, a nonpartisan initiative working to close the age and race gaps in voter participation.

Through Civics 101, students will be trained in how to build campaigns. They will ensure that their classmates have voter ID, are prepared to tackle the issues that matter most to their school community, and are registered and ready to vote in 2022. Superintendents, school leaders, and teacher leaders, this is a chance for your students to develop important civic leadership skills, attain community service hours, and build their resume for college and career while making a tangible impact on their communities.

Your students can change the political fabric of America by recruiting younger and more diverse voices. Sign up for an MSV Orientation to get your school involved. It’s time for a new generation to claim their power at the ballot box and deliver the more perfect union that our founders sought to create nearly 250 years ago.

About the Author

Vijay Chirumamilla is a junior at Indiana University and an intern with My School Votes. Follow My School Votes on Instagram @myschoolvotes.

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