Ashwin Prabaharan ’26
Local politics has been all but shunned away.
Presidential and congressional races grab the attention of nearly all media outlets, casting aside our local city council, state senate, and assembly elections. Less than half of eligible young voters cast a ballot in 2020. Voter turnout plummets during off-year local elections, and the numbers are worse when accounting for younger voters, with the exception of the 2022 midterm elections. If asked about their city council member or state senator, many students would be stumped by the question.
The significant role that elected officials play in our neighborhoods and communities has been obscured from our sight. Now more than ever, students should take part inthe political process in their communities and embolden the voices of fellow young Americans seeking to change and improve their neighborhoods.
During my junior year of high school, I came across an advertisement on Instagram promoting an internship program with a congressional campaign. You may think that would be the last place to find such an opportunity, but it has become commonplace for campaigns and political operations to promote their programs on social media. I was able to land my first campaign job as an intern, helping with research and crafting policy proposals. With that ad came a flurry of opportunities in local politics, and the network and experience I gained propelled my career.
But more importantly, I was able to work with others who wished to see change in their communities. I saw the other side of electoral politics, where concerned citizens band together and work for a candidate that inspires them and offers hope for a better future. From the suburbs of Queens, New York to the bustling streets of Midtown, I worked with local city council campaigns that fought to amplify their concerns and bring attention to the issues they face. Harnessing their collective desire for change, these residents worked to change their communities in hopes that they would finally have a voice speaking on their behalf, whether in the chambers of the city council or the mayor’s office.
Though politics may be uncharted territory for many students, now more than ever is the political world accessible to us. Every day, students with the desire to create positive change within their neighborhoods are rolling up their sleeves and getting involved. Whether it is phone banking for a political candidate or interning for a local elected official, young Americans are realizing the power they hold, their ability to bring the conversation back to the issues facing their families, and many others.
As a student, you hold an incredible advantage to shape the many communities that you are involved in. Within your school, you can form clubs and programs aimed at addressing those issues, from creating a team to clean up your neighborhood to a fundraising program for a local charity. Gather your friends and begin building a plan to help your community.
Interested in politics? Call or email your local officials and inquire about any internship opportunities. As an intern, you would gain an incredible set of skills, from learning about crafting legislation to helping local constituents resolve their issues.
Political campaigns for local offices are another wonderful opportunity to engage with your community. To learn about campaigns in your area, you can search online or on social media for candidates running for office to represent your neighborhood. Often, the website of candidates will host several opportunities to get involved in the form of either volunteering or becoming an intern. Using the information provided, you can also email or call their offices to learn more about such opportunities. Given that local campaigns are small-scale in terms of staff and resources, you would be able to play a leading role in crafting strategy, policy positions, and organizing efforts. The Campus Career Center is also a terrific resource to use, with the internship and job opportunities available have the ability to set you up well for the professional side of politics. It is often said that children are the future. At a time when we face immense challenges, we must take up the mantle and work together to tackle them head-on. That begins with you, getting involved in your community today.
Photo courtesy of CNN