Issue: February 2008
In This Issue:
In case you haven't noticed, the presidential election campaign is going strong and many of you—the influential Millennial Generation—are in the eye of the political storm. According to youth voting experts, some 44 million Americans aged 18 to 29 will be eligible to vote in 2008. Winning over the youth vote has become really important to both Democratic and Republican candidates alike. Republican Mike Huckabee on MySpace and YouTube? Oh yeah!
Chances are Chelsea Clinton won't come knocking at your door to help secure a vote for Mom, Hillary. But this presidential election is likely to leave a lasting impression on young voters for other reasons. If nothing else, Election '08 is a lesson in life's possibilities.
You've probably heard more than once—from Mom, Dad, your teacher or your youth pastor—that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. Election '08 has added powerful fuel to that argument. Until now, the potential for a woman president was three parts Saturday morning cartoon and one part reality show. Though the Clinton Campaign may or may not win the Democratic Party nomination, HIllary has already given a great gift to tomorrow's leaders: the very real image of a woman president seated confidently in the Oval Office. The same can be said for Democratic nominee Barack Obama. Suddenly the suggestion of an African-American holding the country's highest office is met with hands raised in achievable victory, not eyebrows raised in doubt.
When you're considering the choices for your life after high school, remember the valuable lessons of Election '08. Anything is possible.
Ivette Mendez discovered politics when she was a teenager at Plainfield High School. She became involved in Eugene “Gene” McCarthy’s presidential campaign and as one of the “Teens for Gene” held car washes to “Clean for Gene.” Those early days dabbling in the political process helped prepare Ivette for her eventual job as a journalist and later as New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine’s communications director, a position she held until 2007.
Ivette, who was born in Puerto Rico, has since left state government and moved on to an entirely new entrepreneurial challenge, launching osnj.com, a website for and about New Jersey’s more than 1.5 million os. Ivette offers a bit of career counsel to tomorrow’s leaders:
“My best advice to young people is to read. I grew up reading the local paper and the New York Times. I was always addicted to newspapers, even when I was little. They were so big that I would put them on the floor and flip the pages. That interest is part of the reason why I pursued a newspaper journalism career. Find activities at school that relate to your passions. I always worked on the school paper. And find internships that are related to your interests. People are really generous with their knowledge. You won’t know if something is a good fit until you try it.”
Internships are among the best tools for exploration—and many different types are available if you take the time to look—both in high school and in college when you may be more focused on following a certain career track. This past summer, 10 college students were given the opportunity to not only work on targeted state-legislative races but also learn the skills needed to one day be successful political campaign managers.
The Margin of Victory Campaign Internship, a Trenton-based summer internship, placed 10 students on highly targeted legislative races throughout the state to give them hands-on campaign experience. In addition to working on the campaigns, the interns met once a week in a classroom setting in which political consultant Rachel Napear taught them the necessary skills and knowledge they will need to one day be campaign managers. They also had guest instructors and elected officials, like Newark Mayor Cory Booker, as guest speakers.
Throughout the classroom sessions students learned the campaign basics including press, fundraising, polling, messaging and how to run successful field activities such as “Get Out the Vote.” “The best part of this internship is that you aren’t just learning abstract principles,” says Ashley Fornaro, 21, a graduate of Freehold Township High School and a recent graduate of Monmouth University. “You could walk away from this internship and know how to run a campaign from start to finish.”
Margin of Victory teaches students skills that they can use not only in campaigns but also in whatever field they choose. “There’s a lot that I’ve learned that can be taken with me, whether or not I stay in politics,” says Richard Stockton College student Todd Alexis, 21 and a 2004 graduate of Middle Township High School. “You learn so much from your time spent on campaigns, not just about politics, but also about work ethics, business skills and yourself.”
Even if you're not yet 18, the legal voting age, you can still get prepared for your first vote:
If you are already 18 or older, here's what you should do now: