By: Luke Martinez, High School Student
I may be just a teenager, but civic engagement has always been an interest of mine. Growing up in Santa Clara County, where one out of four residents are Latino, I saw the possibilities of helping my community by getting involved. At the high school I currently attend, I am involved in the Immigrant Rights Club and the Latino Student Alliance. It is here where I help spread positive messages about who we are as a community.
But just two years ago, when the 2016 Presidential Election happened, I knew I had to get involved in the electoral process to ensure a better future for myself, my family, and my community. I was only 12 years old at the time, and I had never worked on a campaign or even held any type of job or internship before. I knew that I could contribute. So much was at stake in that election.
Searching for ways to get involved, I found out about an internship program for high schoolers to volunteer for a local congressional campaign. I applied and got the internship despite being in 7th grade.
Over the course of the campaign, I called voters, canvassed, and learned a lot about local campaigns. Campaigns are always about people, and we must work hard to earn their trust and their votes. The candidate I campaigned for ended up defeating an eight-term incumbent by 20 percentage points. When you talk to voters, they will vote!
For the upcoming 2018 Midterm Elections, I have been working as a volunteer for another candidate running for the U.S. Senate in California. It is my goal to help elect more Latinos to positions up-and-down the ballot and make sure that our officials know the issues of our community and look like the communities they come from.
When most people think about Latino issues, they think of immigration. While this is an important subject, there are many other concerns facing our community such as education, jobs, and a lack of representation of Latinos in government that are just as significant. Once we elect more people that understand our issues, we will see a positive change in the community. To accomplish that, we must find good people to run for office and help them win.
Anyone can get involved in politics if they are willing to put in the effort. Even if you don’t think you have enough time, there are ways you can still help. Every campaign always needs more volunteers. Many campaigns will even let you make calls to voters from your home for as long or little time you can.
Even if you don’t want to work on a campaign, you can still make a difference. Remind your friends and family to register to vote and talk with them about the importance of elections. And when you vote, make sure you research and know who you’re voting for.
I’m not even 18 yet, but I cannot wait to vote. Until then, it’s never too early to start being civically engaged.
Now get out there and get involved!