Teenagers Should Be More Politically Involved


Sammie Dostart-Meers

Sammie Dostart-Meers volunteered for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, knocking on doors to encourage those she spoke with to vote for Clinton in the election. People of all ages can volunteer to support political candidates by knocking on doors and speaking with people in their communities. Photo courtesy of Sammie Dostart-Meers.

Sonia Dholakia, Staff Writer

According to a report from the United Nations, if the current rate of greenhouse emissions continues, Earth has less than eight years before the worst effects of climate change become irreversible. In the United States, middle school and high school students are now more likely to die because of a firearm injury than any other cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even if we are not eligible to vote, this current generation of students will deal with the consequences of decisions made by today’s leaders. Current decisions affect our futures, and we should care about what is at stake. You may feel helpless being ineligible to vote, but there are many ways you can get involved in politics. 

Menlo senior Sammie Dostart-Meers started volunteering for campaigns when she was four years old, knocking on doors with her mom for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. When she was a middle schooler, Dostart-Meers volunteered for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

In January of 2020, leading up to the Iowa caucuses, Dostart-Meers traveled to Iowa and volunteered for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, going to Iowans’ homes and encouraging them to vote for Buttigieg. The summer before her junior year, she was a board member of California High Schoolers for Biden, part of current President Joe Biden’s campaign in 2020. 

Teenagers also have the opportunity to be involved in their local government. Menlo freshman Avani Ganesan is on the executive board of the San Mateo County Youth Commission, a youth-led advisory board to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. Ganesan and the committee are currently working on a mandate to require voter education weeks in school, as well as a sexual assault resolution they hope their supervisors will pass in their county. 

Menlo senior Vikram Seshadri is the founder and director of Vote16 SMC, a campaign to lower the voting age to 16 in San Mateo County. Seshadri has been involved with political campaigns on both the national and local level. He volunteered for Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign and has served on numerous local campaigns, such as on former Congressman TJ Cox’s campaign in 2020 and on San Jose City Councilmember David Cohen’s campaign in 2020. “It’s important for everyone to be engaged in local politics,” Seshadri said. “There’s a chance to have a much bigger impact and do a lot more meaningful work at the local level.”

Dostart-Meers was active in four different national campaigns before she was 18. Ganesan is actively helping create legislation as a freshman in high school. Seshadri is directing a campaign focused on expanding voting rights to 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds in his county. Your age does not prevent you from making a difference in your community, your state or even your country. 

There are additional ways for teenagers to be politically involved. You can phone-bank for candidates in tight elections outside your area, talking to voters in those places. If you are over 16 years old and have a GPA higher than 2.5, California high schoolers are able to work as poll workers that make sure our elections, the cornerstone of our democracy, run smoothly. Teenagers can also intern for current elected officials, such as on local Congresswoman Anna Eshoo’s Student Advisory Board.

Menlo students are able to be involved in Menlo’s numerous political clubs, from Election Club to Ignite (a club focused on empowering girls in politics). These clubs can be a great place to learn about politics and become informed citizens. Being politically informed gives students power. It means when teenagers become voters, they will be educated to make crucial decisions that will affect their community and country. “I do think there are a lot of kids at Menlo who are much more informed than a big majority of the current voters in our country,” Dostart-Meers said.

There are many ways teenagers can become politically active, and we should take advantage of these opportunities to create change. But if Menlo students need further motivation, they can earn community engagement credits for unpaid activities. “Students should be actively involved in politics and local, state and federal government,” Menlo Director of Community and Civic Engagement Ava Petrash said. “[We] want to encourage students to get involved through offering CE credits as an incentive.” Menlo offering CE credits for political activism benefits students as it invites them to create change in their community and rewards them for doing so. High schoolers having positive experiences with political outreach will help them continue to be active citizens in their community as they become adults.

Today’s decisions will affect our futures, and it is important to remember teenagers are not powerless. When we become politically active, we give ourselves the power to make change.