How to foster a future politician/policy maker?
April 15, 2021 3:11 PM   Subscribe

Our thirteen year old was *activated* by the horrors of the last four years. He wants to start working towards a better tomorrow—now, right now! What first steps should he take as a budding politician/policy maker? He’s doing research into becoming an intern at our state capital (Colorado) and reaching out to progressive candidates for volunteering opportunities. He’s also contacting the state arm of the Democratic Party and the DSA. What else?
posted by Don.Kinsayder to Education (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A number of the letter-writing, postcard-writing, texting, phone banking organizations are still going strong.
posted by metahawk at 3:19 PM on April 15, 2021

Are there particular issues of great interest? I'd reach out to groups working on those issues in particular, not just politically-oriented groups.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:23 PM on April 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

Recently on the green
posted by oceano at 3:23 PM on April 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

reaching out to progressive candidates for volunteering opportunities.

Similar to bluedaisy, I'd suggest focusing volunteer work more around whatever progressive issue (climate, poverty, etc.) matters most to your son. I vote lefty, and I'm generally skeptical of progressives whose experience is 100% politics - I'd much rather vote for someone with roots in some type of activism.
posted by coffeecat at 3:35 PM on April 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies so far. Oceano, the “Recently on...” was geared towards high school seniors and college age kids. I guess I’m interested in “doable” work for a middle schooler.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 3:37 PM on April 15, 2021

Organizing other people he knows to take actions of their choosing (protests, letter-writing, volunteering for established groups....)

Learning about community organizing. Crip Camp on Netflix is a documentary about the disability rights movement that really shows the power of a group working together for shared goals and the importance of building solidarity with allies. I bet there are biographies that talk about Obama's roots in community organizing. Mutual aid is probably another good search term. The Trial of the Chicago 7 is recent and shows the characters navigating different values around how to protest.

Overall, I think the most important thing is that you support him in choosing what to get involved in vs. trying to direct it too much. Don't decide what's "doable" for him. Conversations about living your values are good, telling him he should really be doing x is likely to be demotivating.
posted by momus_window at 3:47 PM on April 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Something he might want to do in a few years, when he is a 16-year-old high school junior, is to be a page in the U.S. Senate.
posted by NotLost at 4:40 PM on April 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I know some middle school and early high school students who are incredibly engaged with climate justice activism. Is there a Sunrise movement near you all? They are a youth climate justice organization making a real impact.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:43 PM on April 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: He might also look at whether there are smallish local or school-level policy change advocacy projects he could take on, to give him experience talking to people in power, problem-solving, and trying to activate his peers.
posted by DebetEsse at 4:45 PM on April 15, 2021

Best answer: Also consider the Working Families Party, which is gaining strength.
posted by NotLost at 4:53 PM on April 15, 2021

Best answer: When I was 13, my high school had an introduction to rhetoric class that fueled our speech & debate program. This introduced me to policy conversations and constructive argumentation. My classmates who excelled at this program went on to do important things in advocacy. Maybe something similar exists in your school?
posted by migurski at 5:14 PM on April 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you want a lesson plan, he could work through the relevant Girl Scout badges (you don't have to be a Girl Scout to buy the badge books). For his age, it would be Democracy for Cadettes.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:26 PM on April 15, 2021

Best answer: I had a bunch of teenagers volunteering for the Jorgensen textbank last year. I'm sure other candidates have similar opportunities.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:50 PM on April 15, 2021

Best answer: Sunrise Movement is a Youth-led Climate change initiative it looks like there are chapters in Colorado.

If their school has a Forensics (speech) team that can be a great way to develop critical thinking skills in public speaking, with extemporaneous, impromptu, & persuasive speaking are great skills to develop. Getting them to write one page letters to local politicians and the newspaper is also a great thing they can do on their own.

Also worth looking into Rotary International and Sister Cities programs in your area if you have those and the kid is at all interested in international affairs.

Lastly, I would send an email to the local library/principles office/social studies teacher at the high school- they would probably also have some ideas.
posted by wowenthusiast at 6:57 PM on April 15, 2021

Best answer: And there is the High School Democrats of America.
posted by NotLost at 6:19 AM on April 16, 2021

There is absolutely fantastic work being done by teenagers around gun control.
posted by rockindata at 6:44 AM on April 16, 2021

Response by poster: Has anyone heard of the Youth Activism Project? My son is interested in joining (?).
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 10:05 AM on April 18, 2021

Best answer: I recently asked about ways to stay involved in progressive causes and I think many of those things recommended to me are things your son could do - especially texting and phone banking, if he's interested.

I did some phone banking for the most recent Georgia Senate race, and I swear one of the most inspiring moments for me was when there was a group Zoom before one of the call hours, and they had a bunch of volunteers on the call give their names and talk about their involvement, and the call was FULL of teenagers, and they were so dedicated and smart and engaged, and it just made my day.

One thing I read about recently is setting up a Google alert or news alert (your local library may have some news databases that let you save alerts) for your state legislators and your city council members, so you find out when they're making statements and what issues they're working on. There's SO MUCH energy directed at the federal level, and hardly any directed at the local level - where it may make a much bigger difference. Encouraging him to write his state legislators once a week and his city commissioners or school board members regularly could be a great way for him to find out about a wider range of issues and make a difference on local votes.

Please give my thanks to your son. His desire to make a difference is a wonderful thing, and I'm grateful for it.
posted by kristi at 2:10 PM on April 18, 2021

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