Until they can, this group is focused on getting others to vote
Jeffrey Belteton and Jameer Anderson know that this year’s election matters, and they want everyone to get out and vote.
When their teachers at Sojourner Truth Academy in North Minneapolis called to make arrangements for them to run a voter registration drive with their fifth and sixth grade classmates, elections officials were skeptical. However, Siri Nestingen and Maggie Struck knew that their students were more than capable of doing voter registration: they have seen them shine this year as community problem solvers using the Public Achievement organizing model.
Where do you find eligible voters who need to register? Fifth and sixth graders know.
To prepare for the registration drive, the students trained, did role-playing, discussed what non-partisan meant, and came to understand that this was an opportunity to turn out voters regardless of who they were voting for.
When the students held their drive on October 14, they registered more than 40 voters. “We felt proud to remind people to go out and vote," said Jeffrey. “People must have their voices heard!"
Jeffrey and Jameer understand that voting and making what they call “the right choice" is critical to them, their classmates, their families and their community. They explained that people who run prisons look at the third grade standardized test scores of kids like them to predict how many jail cells will be needed by the time they are 18 years old.
“We want them to stop building jail cells, and raise money for college tuition and scholarships instead," says Jameer. “If we choose the right president for our union, those things can happen!"
These young people see voting—or in their case, working to register eligible voters—as one part of civic responsibility. They understand that keeping their grades up and encouraging their classmates to do the same is also a very powerful way to create change.
Jeffrey and Jameer recognize the complexities of creating change for their communities. They have drawn connections between their test scores, their own family members and friends who have been incarcerated, safe neighborhoods, and politicians, in a very sophisticated manner. They are serious about politics and public work, and are out on the street, in schools, and at home asking their community do the same.