With midterm elections approaching soon, political-talk is ubiquitous, and for a small number of teens, politics play an important role in their lives. Ranging from campaign-work to advocacy, from staff positions to volunteering, no matter their age or religious affiliation, these dedicated teens strive to create a difference in their communities.
Noor Rahman, a freshman at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, was the only teen working on Wesley Bell’s campaign for St. Louis County Prosecutor this summer. Beginning in mid-May, Rahman contacted the campaign and started an internship there, quickly rising up the ranks until she became a full-time staff member. Rahman filled out a voter’s ballot for the first time Aug. 7.
“I had already considered myself to be informed [about the candidates], but being a part of the campaign was interesting because I got to understand specific details within a candidate’s platform and to meet the people on my ballot,” Rahman said.
A recent graduate of Ladue Horton Watkins High School, Rahman said that she also gained an extensive amount of knowledge from her experience on Bell’s campaign.
“Working on a campaign has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done,” she said. “Find a friend who is involved in politics. Look at social media. Even look at Google for opportunities. Politics are accessible.”
Sydney Tennill, a senior at Clayton High School, is another active teen with a strong interest in politics.
“I remember when I was little and wanting to go to the counter-protest of Westboro Baptist Church when its members came to my school many years ago,” said Tennill. “I then became much more involved with politics after Cort [VanOstran] came to my AP Government class in May.”
VanOstran, the Democratic nominee for Congress in Missouri’s Second District, impacted Tennill enough that she joined his campaign in June to begin working as a Summer Fellow. With other interns, she made phone calls and canvassed for VanOstran’s campaign.
“The goal was to convince as many [voters] as possible to vote for Cort,” Tennill said.
As a zone leader for St. Charles, Tennill found events in her area and attended them in order to talk to voters. As the primary approached, she delivered yard signs and managed polling places.
Because she just recently turned 17, Tennill will not be able to vote on this year’s ballot, so this was also a motivator for her to invest her time in volunteering.
“I enjoyed most of the work, but yes, there were hard moments,” Tennill said. “Regardless, this was something that I loved doing, and I loved spending my summer with the campaign.”
Tennill suggested that teens could become involved with politics best if they figure out what they are passionate about. After this, she suggests that they find an organization or campaign devoted to this platform.
“It does not take a ton of commitment to make a difference,” Sydney added. “One canvass, one conversation, or one phone call can leave a significant enough impact.”
Also working for VanOstran this year is current University of Maryland sophomore Alex Dubinsky, who graduated from Parkway Central High School. With an extensive résumé of political experience, Dubinsky credits his interest in politics as a result of his involvement with the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) organization.
“I was elected during my junior year of high school to be Social Action Vice President of Missouri Valley, and the first political action that I took regarded a gun violence prevention campaign called Do Not Stand Idly By. ”
From this experience came more motivation to stay involved with politics. Dubinsky volunteered at Billo Otto’s campaign for Congress, worked with Tishaura Jones’ campaign for mayor of St. Louis. He also did an internship at Represent.Us , a non-partisan, non-profit organization targeting corruption in society. Propelling this passion came Dubinsky’s recent decision to take a semester off of school this year in order to focus on his current job of interning with the VanOstran campaign.
“This was a great opportunity for me to learn and do something significant, and I am passionate about this district because it is where I grew up,” said Dubinsky, who attends United Hebrew Congregation. “I have been very satisfied and happy with everything that I have gotten to do with the campaign.”
Another advocate and volunteer with extensive experience in politics is Brian Wingbermuehle, a freshman at St. Louis University. A leader of Students Demand Action STL, Wingbermuehle’s passion for politics began after the 2016 presidential election.
“I got addicted to the fast pace and the moving parts of politics,” Wingbermuehle said. “At Students Demand Action, my friend started to talk about this guy called Cort VanOstran who was running for Congress in the Second District. I went to a few events, learned some more about him, and I joined his canvasess over the summer. Soon, I became a Summer Fellow there.”
In addition to his efforts within the congressional campaign, Wingbermuehle alao works at MO Political Consulting and volunteers with other campaigns like Claire McCaskill’s re-election to the U.S. Senate. Furthermore, Wingbermuehle is a long-time employee of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri.
A recent graduate of Rockwood Summit High School, Wingbermuehle said that politics were a large reason why he stayed near home for college, too.
“To work with candidates and organizations here was such an important choice I made,” Wingbermuehle said. “It was important for me to continue to aid all of this incredibly important work in St. Louis.”