Getting youth involved in politics
They’re Democrats, Republicans and nonpartisan independents, often with different ideas about where Nevada and the nation should be heading. But when they met Saturday morning at Java Joe’s, they all had the same goal – getting more people their age interested in politics and government.
Ryan Costella, 24, came up with the idea for Youth Voice. He said he quickly found out he isn’t alone. So they made Youth Voice a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to increasing activism among young people, whether they are right, left or not certain yet.
Already, he said there are a dozen or more involved – mostly from Carson City. But he said they are expanding into the Reno area.
“The goal is to help young people become active, vocal and responsible members of American society by providing a nonpartisan forum to foster a culture of civic engagement,” he said.
Those under 25 have consistently the lowest voter turnout of any age group, no matter what their political leanings.
Abbey Gardner, 24, admitted that, until Youth Voice, she was among the uninvolved.
“I’m someone who needs to become more involved in politics,” she said. “I care about what’s happening, but I’ve never been as up on things as I should be.”
She said she thought even registering to vote was a complicated, difficult process until she did it.
Costella said the group plans to target high school students, designing activities and programs to get them involved by the time they are 18 and old enough to vote.
Gardner said she believes many in high school are active like she was in different school groups, but just haven’t been approached about politics.
“If someone I knew would have come and talked to me, that would have made a huge difference to me,” she said.
Costella said the message for those students is the importance of being active in a democracy.
“If only a small percentage of people are active in it, then only that small number of people are making the decisions for everyone,” he said.
preparing for the
They will kick off efforts this political season by hosting a debate between candidates for the Carson School Board at 7 p.m. Oct. 2 in the Sierra Room.
Costella said a more ambitious goal is to host an event with the candidates for governor before the Nov. 7 election.
He said they are working with campus Democrats and Republicans to put together that event at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“There are a lot of logistical obstacles,” he said.
He said he wants a debate at which young people can actually learn something about those candidates.
“It would be nice in a debate when some one asks a question to get an answer to the question asked,” he said.
Gardner said they are also working on getting into area high schools to talk before government and other classes. The key, she said, will be finding the issues that interest young people.
“You have to make people care before they will listen to you,” she said.
They said they hope to put on a variety of events, including voter- registration drives and even concerts.
“We’re interested in any kind of event to get youth to turn out and get involved,” Costella said.
Both said Youth Voice is dedicated to remaining independent and nonpartisan so that it doesn’t end up with a political label that drives away one side or another.
They emphasized that different views don’t mean people can’t work together.
“There are people here with totally opposite views, and we get along wonderfully together,” he said. “We’d like to have a forum where every candidate out there has access to young people.”
There is, however, one restriction in the bylaws: Once some one passes age 26, they lose their vote on the Youth Voice board. The group is, after all, for young people, said Costella.
He said the goal behind that rule is to make people like himself at age 24 train some one to take the reins in two years, and, in the future, to keep Youth Voice focused on the issues important to those between 18 and 26.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.