Frontier, Fort Frye and Belpre high school students made a trip to the Washington County Board of Elections after school Thursday, after spending a week encouraging their classmates to register. The campaign was part of the Youth Voices of Ohio “No Vote, No Voice” movement to get all students who will be 18 by the November presidential election registered to vote in the March primaries.
Fort Frye junior Kelsey Ring, 16, won’t reach the milestone of 18 in time, but she still helped get 40 Fort Frye students registered to vote.
“If you don’t vote, you’re not showing your voice,” she said. “Not all of us will be 18, but we’re showing our voice by doing this. We can still be involved.”
Other area schools have also mailed in bundles of registration cards this year and in years past, said Carolyn Walker, clerk at the board of elections.
“We get a lot of high school participation, which is a good thing because I think a lot of 17-year-olds don’t realize they can vote in the primary if they’ll be 18 by the election,” she said.
Frontier High School senior David Thomas, 18, not only helped 48 students at his school register but will be a poll worker during the election. Being involved is especially important for those his age, he said.
“Hopefully it makes a big difference and lets (legislators) know we’re serious,” Thomas said. “We could definitely use the attention.”
In addition to registering youth, students who are part of the nonpartisan Youth Voices organization have been working to create a Youth Agenda to share with the state’s lawmakers. Items on the 2008 Ohio Youth Agenda include ensuring schools and students have a full curriculum, knowledge about preparing for college, violence prevention measures, peer leadership to prevent dropouts and a constitutional school funding system.
“A lot of the times lawmakers overlook young people,” said Fort Frye junior Josiah Fryman, 16. “We’re showing that we’re here and we care about the issues. We got this many people registered out of our small school, so just think what the big cities could do.”
At Frontier, the most important Youth Agenda item is having a full curriculum, said senior Tyler Harris, 18,
“That’s really important to us,” he said. “And that ties in with the school funding, because you need funding to have the full curriculum.”
Ensuring a full curriculum is also the focus at Fort Frye, as well as helping students move on to receive higher education, said Ring.
“Preparing for and being able to afford college is a big problem in our area,” she said. “A lot of students just think they don’t have the money, and they choose not to go to college. We want to make sure there’s money for all students to go.”
Included in the full curriculum area of the agenda are opportunities for high-level academic courses, career education, full arts and music curriculum, basic financial skills, technological skills and opportunities for job shadowing and internships.
“We’re lacking a lot of those things at our school,” said Thomas. “We have a music teacher one period of the day and no life skills class anymore.”
But after the campaign, the students say there’s one area of the curriculum they’re not lacking: preparation for civic engagement.
“Next year, when I actually get to vote, I’ll know what’s going on,” said Frontier junior Maggie Alden, 16. “I’ve learned a lot.”
Mitch Casey The Marietta Times
Frontier High School student David Thomas presents Washington County Board of Elections employee Dixie Brown with voter registration forms. Other students from Frontier, and some from Belpre High School, wait their turn Thursday.
Fact BoxYouth Voices of Ohio
Youth Voices is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with high school students to get them involved with politics. Through the Youth Voices “No Vote, No Voice” campaign Jan. 22 to 29, more than 3,000 new voters were registered in 30 high schools statewide.
In collaboration with the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign, Youth Voices also works on a yearly Youth Agenda. Through this project students from across the state have come together to share their life experiences, learn more about how public policy affects their lives and advocate for the Youth Agenda they have formulated.