Community / Opinion

Fostering youth civic engagement in Wellesley: a call to action

Wellesley, Massachusetts, has long been recognized for its great schools and community vibrancy. Despite these attributes, the town encounters its share of youth civic engagement obstacles, including voter apathy and limited representation in local government.

Despite the town’s well-informed community, voter apathy remains a concern among young voters. As an example, according to data shared by Diane Innes, Elections and Voter Registration Administrator from the Town Clerk’s office, on average, voter engagement in the 18-24 age category is 22 percentage points below the overall average of all registered voters across elections, and youth voter turnout is the lowest in state elections. In addition, even though there are similar numbers of registered voters in Wellesley in the 18-24 category as in the 65-74 and 75+ categories, voter engagement is less than half. In the 2020 presidential election, 55% of 18-29 year olds in the United States voted, marking an 11 percentage point increase. I want to keep this interest elevated to ultimately having an informed and engaged citizenry. Students who are 16 and 17 years old can pre-register to vote online on this link.

A diverse and inclusive representation in local government is imperative. Currently, Wellesley only contains two youth members out of the 240 town meeting members even though there is no age limit for running for office. According to Wellesley’s official website, “The Town Meeting votes on Motions, offered by the proponents, that are within the scope of the articles in the Warrant.” Town meeting members have a voice on Wellesley’s progress and ultimate success. One of the youth town meeting members, Skye Jacobs, a senior at Wellesley High School, shared with me that “many youths are unaware of the opportunities to be involved civically. I am a youth member at the League of Women Voters, and we are always trying to recruit students like you”. 

Students can take various steps to counteract a decline in civic engagement. Joining or initiating a student organization dedicated to civic engagement or a specific cause can provide a platform for discussions and actions. Attending local government meetings, such as town hall gatherings, city council sessions, or school board meetings, allows students to stay informed about local issues and express their viewpoints. 

Volunteering for political campaigns, whether at the local or national level, offers valuable experience and insights into the political process. Participating in community service projects not only benefits the community but also nurtures a sense of civic responsibility and involvement.

Educating peers about civic engagement, voting rights, and important issues through events or campaigns can raise awareness and mobilize others to take action. Using social media platforms to share information, raise awareness, and organize activities can also be effective.

Collaborating with local nonprofit organizations or advocacy groups on projects that benefit the community is another meaningful way to engage. Finally, staying informed about current events, policies, and issues through reliable news sources and research is essential for informed civic participation.

Sources:

https://www.statista.com/statistics/984745/youth-voter-turnout-presidential-elections-us/

https://www.brendonproperties.com/move-to-wellesley-ma/

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