Youth Inspired to Get Out the Vote

To mobilize students and other community members to engage in the 2020 election, Director of Environmental Education and Sustainability Jenny Cooper is facilitating a civics course focused on engaging in democracy and getting out the vote. First offered over the summer, the four-week course is coming back this fall due to popular demand. It involves learning about how government works and why it’s important through discussions, podcasts, videos, articles, and listening to guest speakers, in addition to volunteering for a campaign or voter registration organization.

The urgency for voter engagement in the 2020 election, according to Jenny, is that so much is at stake.

“We have 10 years to reduce our global greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent in order to stave off the worst of climate change,” says Jenny. " The people we are electing to office in November will be the drivers of policy and action for at least half of that time. The causes and impacts of climate change, the pandemic, and racial injustice are all connected, and we need to leaders who will effectively address them.”

Nearly 60 individuals, ranging from 8th graders to grandparents, participated in the summer course, including 30 Northwest School students. Ninth grader Michela W. signed up for the course to have her voice heard during an election in which she is too young to vote.

“I am going to grow up in the world created over the next four years. Just because I am too young to vote doesn’t mean I am too young to be affected by those that vote,” says Michela. “This is a way for me to make my voice heard.”

During the class, participants read articles and listened to guest speakers, such as Northwest alum Kiana Scott, Seattle Port Commissioner Sam Cho, Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis, national political pundit James Carville, and others. The participants then broke into small groups to discuss what they learned and read.

Northwest School senior German C. experienced an important learning moment during his volunteer hours. He phone banked for Kristine Reeves, who was running for United States Congress at the time. German recalled wondering what his impact would be, noting a majority of people do not answer phone calls from unknown numbers.

“One morning, I woke up and I had a voicemail from a voter who said, ‘Thanks for the voicemail. I am going to try and learn more,’” says German. “That was the single moment that taught me that even something as simple as a voicemail is helpful in keeping people engaged.”

Click here to register for the fall course.