The following is the first post in a series highlighting the League of Women Voters of New Jersey Young People’s Network – a group of leaders that will keep the League going strong for many years into the future. The author is YPN member Nicole Scott-Harris.
As the granddaughter of a public school teacher, a product of public education, and former recipient of free lunch, I was well nourished with an upbringing partially subsidized by tax dollars. It was government policies and funding that made all this possible for me, and many other kids who grew up in places like East Orange, NJ. Unfortunately, today’s public policies have left us with growing systematic inequality. My career and education have taken me on a journey in and around politics, and now I am an advocate for equity, justice, and ethics in government. I believe in the power of collective action and the power of the people to transform our world.
As a featured panelist in the League of Women Voters of NJ’s 2014 Fall forum on youth engagement and empowerment, I came to realize that there is both a need and a yearning for young voters in political discourse. Not only do we bring fresh perspective and insight, but by using our voices and sharing our stories, we also assert the legitimacy of our lived experiences as a constituency to be recognized and respected. It is for this reason that I joined the LWVNJ and assumed a leadership role in the Young People’s Network.
Participating with the League offers me the opportunity to contribute and collaborate with others in the effort to “make democracy work” for everyone. My concern is especially for those who have been historically disenfranchised, disregarded, and denied a seat at the proverbial table of the American body politic. Further, the League is a well-known and respected organization with national reach. It offers expansive opportunities to grow my professional network, gain volunteer experience, and promote civic engagement, which is the life force of any thriving democracy. In the age of climate change, growing income inequality, and globalization, we face serious challenges with sobering long-term consequences that successive generations will be left to grapple with. Joining the League is a great first step.