Many students are hopeful to enact some sort of political change during their college careers. Making a political difference causes a significant impact on the community and state, which allows students to expand their mission beyond the university.
Students are constantly speaking about the change they wish to evoke, and yet many of them do nothing to promote their cause. For example, turnout for college students in the 2016 election was around 48 percent.
Read More: College students don't vote, but they should
However, there are many students who aim to make a serious change in the world by running for political office.
Running for public office as a young student can be a significant way to make an impact. Although there are limited options for students to run for higher offices like Congress, there are many local and statewide positions that students could fill. Granted, age restrictions vary by state and position, yet in Arizona you can run for public office as early as 18 years old.
"Since the start of my campaign, I have been very up front about my age," said Alexa Scholl, Prescott city councilwoman and ASU political science senior. "It’s important that young people who are running don’t shy away from (their age) or justify it, but instead embrace it and talk about all the positive things that come from it. We are young and proud of being young, and ready to commit to our communities and represent everyone regardless of age, race and gender."
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Running for office as a young person is an incredibly unique resume builder and can propel a student’s political career. Having experience in city council, government committees or statewide offices can give students valuable knowledge on how to run a campaign, interact with political leaders and effectively communicate with constituents.
More students should be inclined to run for public office because of the serious disparities in political representation. It is no secret that most political positions are filled by older adults who have long political resumes and experience. However, all of these individuals started their political careers somewhere, and it is vital for young students to start now in order to maximize their success in the future.
Increasing political representation for young people will help promote the needs of college students nationwide. If ASU students run for public office, they will ultimately be able to represent ASU and work on behalf of the University’s needs at the state level.
"You need strong schools to have a strong community," Scholl said. "I love being an ASU student and representing education. Without my ASU, Barrett and Sun Devil experience, I would have probably never run for city council. I’m proud to support ASU."
Young people can make a serious difference in politics by offering a perspective that is unique from the older demographic which floods the current political landscape. Students can offer fresh points of view and help include young people in the political conversation.
People may criticize young politicians for a lack of experience and wisdom. However, this is mostly a fear tactic to discredit the qualifications of young students who run for office. Many students have mastered political discourse and critical thinking even at the high school level and are very knowledgeable about current political issues, making them suitable candidates for public office.
"I think, honestly, my age was one of my biggest benefits and what people loved about me," Scholl said. "People were excited about a young candidate, and excited to see someone who was very different from the typical candidate that runs. It’s good to have a variety of age on any government board to represent different concerns that people have."
Students can also serve as important role models for other young people who aspire to initiate change through politics. Showing other students that they can have political influence despite their age is an important way to increase the amount of young people running for office.
"Make sure that you are running for a position that will represent a community that you are really passionate about ... A big component of why I was elected is because I genuinely love Prescott and that came through when I was talking to voters," she said.
Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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