One of the best parts of high school? Falling in love with that one extracurricular activity. For some, that activity is band, or choir, or track, or debate. However, there’s one activity that doesn’t get as much credit as the most mainstream clubs or sports: political campaigns. Behind every president, governor, congressperson, or ballot measure, there is a campaign committee–or in other words, a team, a cohort, a “behind-the-scenes” crew. And while most of the volunteers for political campaigns are adult citizens, it’s perfectly acceptable for high school students to contribute to the campaign as well. Speaking from personal experience, volunteering for a political campaign in high school is relatively easy, and offers numerous benefits.
How to get involved in a political campaign
The easiest way is to ask around your circles; find out if any of your friends, teachers, or family members are already involved in the political process somehow. Strike up a conversation with one of these acquaintances and mention that you’re interested in volunteering and opportunities are sure to follow. If this isn’t possible, there are certainly other ways to get involved. Virtually every county has an organized political party base. Check if there is a local Republican or Democratic Party office where you live. One quick resource is the national party websites: learn more about volunteering for the GOP here or for the Democratic Party here. Another way of getting involved is by contacting local politicians. Every mayor, representative, senator, governor, or president has campaign committees who would love to have youth as volunteers. If you’re unsure of your representatives, just enter your zip code into OpenCongress to find out your state’s senators and your district’s representative.
Aside from political parties, there’s also a range of social movements going on right now that provide volunteer opportunities. Just this past year, you might have seen protests led by groups like Black Lives Matter or Fight for $15. Whether it’s police brutality or environmental justice, a lot of cities have a network of organizers that put together events like marches or rallies.
Roles on a political campaign
Once you’ve found a volunteer opportunity, there’s a wide variety of roles that can be filled. A great position for young people is on the social media team. All that time spent on Facebook and Twitter can actually be of use to politics! Starting a social media page is crucial to political campaigns, and these pages will need administrators or contributors. Another simple role is door-knocking. You’ve probably seen signs in the past that say things like “Hillary for President” or “Vote No: Don’t Limit the Freedom to Marry” on people’s yards. A lot of these signs are put up by volunteers who go door-to-door with information packets and ask if it’s okay to put the sign up. Other roles could be running voter registration booths, speaking to voters at community events, or writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper.
The benefits of volunteering with political campaigns
The most obvious plus is gaining experience. Working in politics while in high school will look great on your resume when applying for internships in college. And if you’re hoping for a career in politics, there isn’t a better way to get your feet in the water and see if this is something you’re really passionate about. I personally learned so much from campaigning: I got to practice explaining important topics and trying to convince voters; I made several connections with community leaders who were also on the campaign; and I played my part in a vote that was extremely important to me as a student.
I’m personally deeply grateful for the political actions I’ve been a part of. Last fall, I was on my local “Support Our Schools” committee, which campaigned for a school district referendum that would bring more money to the students, and ran the group’s Facebook page. This included a whiteboard campaign, made up of students that supported the referendum holding white boards saying “I support the referendum because…”, “Support Our Schools”, or “Vote Yes.” I’ve also gotten the chance to be part of a direct action on climate change: the People’s Climate March in New York City, which had nearly 400,000 marchers.
All of this has inspired me to know more about the decisions made in politics that directly affect me. Even though I’m not old enough to vote yet, I know that I can still do my part in creating a country that I want to live in. If this applies to you too, I encourage you to take action in whatever you are passionate about! And even if you’re unsure if this is right for you, try it out! It’s a truly rewarding experience that you won’t regret.