Politicians, political scientists and professional pundits love to lament the low levels of youth participation in American politics. Two new clubs, representing the two major political parties in the United States, have set out to counteract the long-standing assumption that teenagers are uneducated and unmotivated when it comes to politics.
Junior Jack Forys, long interested in politics because of his parent’s backgrounds, started the Republican Club believing that others would be similarly fascinated if given the opportunity.
“Politics is going on around us, but a lot of people aren’t plugged into it,” Forys said. “It’s a very interesting thing, people just need the opportunity to get involved.”
Forys had the idea for the club during the 2016 election, and he held an interest meeting in June. Forys built the club up by asking the Loudoun County Republican Party for ways to get involved, a request that led to canvassing, phone banking and event-staffing opportunities with state delegate Dave LaRock.
While the club is mostly activity-based, junior Anna Garbe appreciates that it offers an environment where persons can talk about controversial topics.
“I think [the purpose of the club is] to let kids express their political views in an environment where they know people will agree with them. I think that’s important,” Garbe said.
The founders of Young Democrats club share Garbe’s belief in the importance of giving everyone an opportunity to be heard.
“I think it’s really important, as teenagers we’re finding our identities, and a lot of people identify with the [Democratic platform],” Magoffin said. “I think it’s really important to represent what you believe in.”
Like their Republican counterpart, the Young Democrats club aims to educate students on the political process by allowing them to participate in the campaigns of local officials. The club recently attended a meet-and-greet with Democratic candidates Tia Walbridge, Ralph Northam and Mark Herring.
The Young Democrats club also gives students a place to discuss current events with informed peers. At a September club meeting, for example, conversation revolved around President Trump’s then-recent decision to end DACA, an Obama-era policy that had protected undocumented immigrant children from deportation.
“It’s nice just to have a discussion and be able to listen to everyone and value everyone’s opinion. If we get bigger, that will just bring more voices in,” co-founder Sophie Bosse said.
The two clubs are looking for ways to work together to increase constructive dialogue between those with differing opinions. Some ideas include a coffee house discussion, a debate and a dodgeball game for charity. Both clubs hope that by encouraging civility, open-mindedness and empathy in high school, they will prepare students to be functioning members of the American republic as adults.
“[It’s important to] start people off early,” Garbe said. “So later in life they’re not screaming at the first person who has a different idea than them.”
This article first appeared in our December issue of our news magazine.