Political Involvement: Why it’s Important and How to Get Involved

Megan Kang, Author

Some Hampton teens are not aware of local politics, which is totally understandable; on top of balancing homework, sports, and jobs, who has the time to think about non-presidential elections? While it is true that the president greatly affects the lives of all Americans, regional politicians directly affect the Hampton community as well. Therefore, it is important to be aware of our political climate and interact with local politics.

Pennsylvania is one of the United States’ swing states during presidential elections. Allegheny county has a democratic majority of registered voters; however, Hampton Township voters have leaned Republican in the last few presidential elections. As of October 15th, Hampton residents are represented by representative Lori Mizgorski of the PA House, Senator Lindsey Williams of the PA Senate, and representative Conor Lamb of the US House. Our current Pennsylvania senators are Bob Casey Jr. and Pat Toomey, and our governor is Tom Wolf.

How to Get Involved

The best way to get into politics is to read the news! It is impossible to be informed about the going ons in the world, your country, or community without tuning into the news. The source you read from is also important. Reliable and unbiased papers and sites are best to ensure a well rounded agenda with factual articles. Hampton’s Contemporary World Issues class has created a convenient collection of reliable and unreliable checks on various news sources. Hampton students can access their compendium here

One way you can meet graduation requirements while also learning about local politics is to volunteer for or shadow a politician. Every campaign needs volunteers; no matter how much or little a student is able to contribute, any help is often appreciated. Local campaigns are the easiest to get started with. Candidates’ campaign websites usually have pages to apply and join the campaign as a volunteer. The most common way students help is by canvassing voters door-to-door or through phone banking. City council, mayoral, congressional, and other races can stagger throughout the 4 year periods between presidential elections. 

Under the new job shadowing experience requirement for high school graduation (beginning class of 2022), students must shadow an adult worker for at least 5 hours. Shadowing a politician may seem daunting, but it is just like shadowing any professional. These public figures are usually friendly, if just for the sake of appearances. This mandatory policy is a great opportunity to explore the inner workings of local government. 

In today’s world, many teens are frustrated with the status quo. One good outlet for them has been activism. While Black Lives Matter protests may be dangerous for children at the moment, many students have supported the movement remotely by initiating conversation on social media, in their families, and at school.

Joining a safe march is an activity that can be done with friends with passion for a cause. Marchers can advocate and show support for issues through participation and signs. Some marches that have had important messages in Pittsburgh were the annual Pittsburgh Women’s March, 2018 Pittsburgh March For Our Lives, and the annual Pittsburgh PrideFest. Pictured below, the 2019 Pittsburgh Climate Strike was organized and led by students. 

Photo from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

 

 

 

 

 

In School Opportunities

Hampton High School does a great job in offering political engagement opportunities for its students.

There are an abundance of classes where politics and other current events are discussed like the geography and gov courses. From my experience, Mr. Hale’s Contemporary World Issues is one of the best classes to take for education on politics. There is a good amount of work to be done in the class, but every assignment teaches about the world and how to effectively analyze its issues. 

In Mass Media Journalism I and II, we explore the history of journalism, aspects of good journalism, and how to write articles. Getting to meet and talk to people in journalism around the world is a unique and eye-opening experience that this course provides. Our pieces are published in The Hamptonian, and we even get opportunities to submit pieces to professional news sites. Classwork often features politics in some way, and the research that is required to write articles allows for students to gain more perspectives on and exposure to relevant events. 

Hampton High School also has a few clubs that center around and encourage interests in politics. Our Forensics team gives real life applications to what you gain from the news. Students can compete in events where they must present policy arguments or discuss current events. Model United Nations lets its members roleplay as government officials who must use and develop existing foreign relations. 

The Impact

Participating in politics can seem like a fruitless effort, but youth engagement has been a proven forefront force. The Obama campaign, for instance, staffed many high school students. These students helped Obama become the president of the United States. Working with local campaigns can be just as rewarding and even more personal because volunteers can meet with candidates at events and meetings. 

Civic engagement not only benefits society, but it is also another opportunity for education outside of school. In the increasingly modern age, politics remain ever so important to the functioning of America. Students become more aware of the issues immediate to them through increased interaction in the political sphere. Experience and discussions relating to politics expose teens to new knowledge and ideas.

Students can affect their communities and future generations now by engaging in important issues. How will you start doing your part in your community?

References:

  1. https://www.dos.pa.gov/VotingElections/OtherServicesEvents/VotingElectionStatistics/Pages/VotingElectionStatistics.aspx
  2. https://archive.triblive.com/news/allegheny-county-election-results/ 
  3. https://newsinteractive.post-gazette.com/electionresultsgen2016/
  4. https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/county_list.cfm?CNTYLIST=ALLEGHENY
  5. https://www.ht-sd.org/uploaded/District/Schools/HHS/2019-2020_SY/Final_HHS_POS_20-21.pdf
  6. https://www.visitpittsburgh.com/events-festivals/annual-events/
  7. https://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2019/09/20/climate-strike-pittsburgh-city-county-building-greta-thunberg/stories/201909200121 
  8. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2008/04/30/35obama.h27.html