Academics, Upper School

Students Roll Up Their Sleeves for the 2020 Elections

All Northwest School seniors are engaged in the annual Civics Engagement Project, immersing themselves in the unique circumstances of political campaigning virtually in 2020. As part of the project, students are required to volunteer at least 10 hours for either a current campaign in the 2020 election, a voter registration/turnout organization, or a local/state-wide political and social justice-oriented organization.

“Out of all the activities I did, I definitely enjoyed phone banking the most because I was able to have real conversations,” says senior Emily L-M., who phone-banked for the Florida Democrats. “That is the one that felt like the most direct impact, because I was helping people register to vote by mail, and it felt the most productive.”

For many students, these volunteer hours involve such actions as letter writing, phone-banking, and text-banking. Alongside the volunteer hours, students must complete a portfolio containing multiple journal entries, an analysis of their campaign/organization’s media promotions, and a reflective or analytical essay providing insight into their personal experience.

Many of the students’ volunteer hours were filled virtually out of social distancing necessity. This provided this year’s class of Northwest seniors the rare opportunity to engage in a campaign not limited to Seattle.

Brian T. phone-banked for T’Wina Nobles’s campaign for Washington state senate in the 28th legislative district and he enjoyed the different perspectives he saw when he got outside of Seattle’s city limits.

“We live in a liberal bubble in Seattle and it can be hard to leave that, especially now,” says Brian, noting the 28th district covers parts of Tacoma and the rural areas south of Tacoma. “Sometimes I am talking with people who don’t agree with me, and it helped me realize that although Seattle is a liberal area, it is not representative of the entire area around me.”

Although many students have become more interested in politics throughout the past few years, students often cite the civics project as something that demonstrates the importance of local politics and staying involved.

“The reason why I wanted to volunteer for a local campaign is specifically because it is not covered by national media outlets,” says Brian. “I’ve learned that local campaigns are what affect me and the people around me the most. It is what we sometimes have to work on the hardest to stay informed.”

Between this course and the fall Civics and Swing States Course, over 100 students were directly involved in political and voter turnout campaigns this year. One of the additional ways The Northwest School prepared students for the election was this round-table discussion that was presented at Community Meeting on Oct. 28.