I just started my first semester at Fresno Pacific University, and I have not yet registered to vote, even though I want to. Why would I not use my right as a citizen? Why have I not registered to vote? I do not know where to vote, how to vote, or even what I need to do to register. This makes me question how the state is educating young people to make the best decision on how vote or if people in charge even want me to vote at all.

In 8th grade US history class, I learned that I had a constitutional right to vote when I turned 18. I was told that it was really important. During the next election season, I realized why it was so important. My parents would discuss politics and would talk about how president George W. Bush was no good. They talked about how his leadership would only lead to more problems in the future. Their conversation revolved around liberal this, conservative that. I didn’t understand what those terms meant and how they affected my life. I remember thinking that adults seemed to only worry about our country the most during election years, and their worry brought up a lot of hate for opposing viewpoints. This was my introduction to the world of politics.

Before this, politics never crossed my mind and seemed to be something that only adults worried about. I thought adults were making decisions that would be best for us youth. After Sept. 11th, I realized this wasn’t the case. I was afraid that something could happen to me. I didn’t feel protected by adult decision makers and I couldn’t say anything about it because I was a child. I felt powerless as I saw how the president and our government responded, and I hated that feeling. When I asked my parents to do something, they gritted their teeth and told me to go to my room. They were grown up. I thought they could say something, do something, or even start a movement because people listen to grown ups. I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt like this.

In high school, I kept hearing about how a single vote makes a difference in what this country will become. I thought that was awesome, and even though I wasn’t old enough to vote, I was curious about the process. When I researched online, I found more about how the youth vote was on the rise and how some people said youth would be the deciding factor in the 2008 presidential election. I found out that some groups started to discourage youth voters, and this was even before I was old enough to vote.

This is the first year I am old enough to vote, and it’s an election year. More than ever, I want my voice to be heard. I started looking online again and found that they did simplify things so that I actually understood it more clearly. Yet they forgot to tell us very important information on, for example the place where you register at is where you need to vote.

Shabree Inuwa, a freshman at Fresno Pacific University said that she and her family are planning to vote, and shared her beliefs on voting. “I’m still debating on who I am going to vote for, because I’m not sure who is actually going to follow through on what they say they’re going to do.”

In some ways I agree with Inuwa. It’s important to not to narrow your allegiance to just one party but keep your options, and your mind, open.

Inuwa also explained her parents idea about voting. She said that they’re unsure as well.

“I know for sure that my father doesn’t know who he is going to vote for,” she said. “My mom says it depends on who sounds accurate on what they are going to do.”

I don’t think Inuwa’s perspective is uncommon. Sometimes, a young person’s voting habits can follow along with their parent’s opinions. Parents have a lot of influence over whether a young person votes, and parents who introduce voting to their children while growing up not only help them see the importance of voting but also can influence their child’s political perspective.

Many people only vote in the presidential election and forget about state and local voting, which often has a bigger impact on daily life. I believe voters should take the time to find out about local issues, like who is running to be mayor. Voting for senators, governors, council members, or even school board members is important. The way I see it is these local offices have more freedom to make decisions that actually impact us. In my opinion, when we vote for a president, we vote for the party the president represents. The president is really the puppet and the party is the puppeteer pulling all the strings.

As a voter, what matters most is that you educate yourself. Educate yourself about voting requirements, where your polling place is, and check that you’re even registered. Research about issues and candidates so you are sure that you’re making the most educated vote possible. Keep voting for the local candidates and issues. Lastly, make sure to encourage others to vote. Even if they think their vote has no significance, it does and if you give up before you try why expect to get the results you want?

The kNOw Youth Media
The kNOw works to support and equip young people with the journalism and advocacy skills they need to tell their stories and the stories of their communities.

In 2006, over 25 youth began participating in weekly after-school writing workshops where they congregated in the hallway of a two-story building in West Fresno and learned the essentials of creating media and telling their stories. The group evolved over the next five years and is now proudly recognized as The kNOw Youth Media.

Through our program, we create opportunities for our youth participants, who in turn create long-term positive change in their communities. Our approach weaves youth development and youth media innovation to produce our biannual youth publication, multimedia projects, and community forums.

The kNOw began as a project of New America Media, which was the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations. In 2018 The kNOw became a project of Youth Leadership Institute.

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