October 27, 2020

Inspiring Teens to Take Political Action

Teenagers under 18 may not be able to vote, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get involved in the election. Two Oakwood students have done just that, starting their own grassroots organizations to inspire political action.

Two years ago, Oakwood senior Teva ’21 co-founded LA Teen Get Out the Vote, or LA Teen GOTV, to encourage her peers to volunteer for progressive and Democratic politicians. “We founded it before the midterms in 2018, in a bout of anxiety surrounding the election,” she says. “As someone who wasn’t yet able to vote, I wanted to find a way to be civically engaged.”

They began meeting every weekend to write postcards in support of different candidates. This year, they’ve expanded to phone and text bank training, all done virtually since the pandemic struck in March. They also recently held a workshop to train others how to apply to become a poll worker, since you only need to be 16. Teva said she plans to be a poll worker on election day alongside two dozen of her Oakwood classmates. Since they began, she estimates that 250 students from 40 different schools in the LA area—“Kids ranging from Whittier to Calabasas, private and public schools,” she explains—volunteered through LA Teen GOTV.

LA Teen Get out the Vote
From lateengotv.org

It’s all in the Oakwood philosophy of being civically engaged and taking action

Teva '21

When they began, they naturally focused on House races, but have since branched out to local races including District Attorney. They also recently held their first phone bank in support of Joe Biden. “It’s whoever needs us,” she says.

Teva grew up in a politically active household—I was canvassing for school board elections before I could walk!” she exclaims— but says that being part of LA Teen GOTV has given her practical experience that she can build on in the future. “Not only does it give teens an opportunity to be civically engaged, it gives them the knowledge to do it on their own. Having these resources gives people the ability to lead things in their own communities.”

While LA Teen GOTV is based in LA and focused on Democratic candidates, Elect US is a non-partisan group that aims to connect teens across the country with various campaigns, teaching them to do phone and text banking and canvassing. The group was co-founded earlier this year by Oakwood junior Ily ’22.

Elect Us
From weareelectus.org and @weareelectus on Instagram

“Our reasoning is we want everyone who wants to be involved in politics to find someone they can align with based on their views,” she says. “By creating a network of students with different views, they can have an understanding and create a community where people can respect each other.”

Ily leans liberal, but says she has been working on the campaign of Daniel Gade, a Republican who is running to represent Virginia in the Senate. “He believes in climate change, and for me it’s more important that I can find something I agree with him on,” she says. “To me climate change is the most important issue. To elect more Republicans who agree with that is important.”

Elect US chooses campaigns to work on, vetting them, and then training teens who then volunteer for them. They are currently partnered with four campaigns in Virginia, Maine, and Illinois, with plans to add more in the future. If Biden and Harris win the upcoming presidential election, she sees the possibility that they’ll cover the race to fill Harris’s Senate seat.

Both Ily and Teva credit Oakwood with fostering their political passions. “In 8th grade we did a model senate simulation that sparked my interest in possibly running for office in the future,” says Ily. “I think Oakwood being relatively political has helped me have these conversations and be involved and informed about things going on in this country.”

Teva is currently enrolled in a Campaigns and Elections class, which she says she’s looked forward to for four years. They’re running an election simulation of the 2024 election, researching ballot propositions and studying the founding of our democracy. “It’s all in the Oakwood philosophy of being civically engaged and taking action,” she says.