I once asked my principal, "Why do you teach us about Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi and Che Guevara and then suppress student voice?" She, of course, had no answer.
As I sat in the principal's office, her high-pitched voice began to fade out as my embarrassment and indignation grew. When I left the building that afternoon, I headed to the nearest Staples and created 100 posters that went up around the school and got taped to my body. Everything changed after that. I wrote petitions, fought with the administration, went to the school board, had my peers and teachers supporting me, and I made a difference. I rewrote the dress code policy, created a Handbook Committee and, most importantly, I inspired other students to start advocating for themselves and using their voices. As I move onto the next steps in my life, I am hopeful that the underclassmen I am leaving behind in my hometown are going to continue to enact change.
I found that after impacting my school, I became inspired to get more involved, to explore other issues, and to understand politics more. Due to these experiences, I decided to vote in the primaries. I knew that I could make an impact, no matter how small.
The same cannot be said for most people my age, leading to a serious political issue.
Many students don't believe they have anything important to contribute, mostly due to the outlook by most school administrators. Many students don't know what their rights or resources are, making them complacent. Young people are staying silent for fear of repercussions from their school administrators, but they shouldn't be.
In the news, the crisis of young adults with practically no political efficacy and the lowest voter turnout of all age groups has become a perplexing issue for many politicians, educators and political scientists. During this election, young people have lamented over the fact that the campaigns are trying too hard, that they just don't get it. Interestingly enough, also in the news, is the negative press that on-campus protesters get from the same news outlets that are concerned about our voting statistics.
In my eyes, the answer is simple: Allow students to have a voice and they will learn that they are important to our political system. Allowing students to protest, have open forums, and encourage change helps political efficacy increase along with confidence. In a society where millennials are called the "selfish" generation, it is important that young people stand against injustices to create a better place for ourselves and our children.
When students are allowed to exercise their rights, they learn about the political system organically rather than from a book. This is because they can see what kind of impact they have had on their schools and communities. Naturally, these young people will be encouraged to vote and participate more actively in politics.
The future of our country will be bright as long as the next generation is encouraged to grow.