The following is the third 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 Casey Olesko.
It was the summer of 2011, and I was about to enter into my junior year of college at The College of New Jersey, located in Ewing, the city right next to Trenton. I was a Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies double major, and both curricula required me to partake in a semester-long internship at an organization of my choosing. When I discovered a listing for an internship with the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, I was ecstatic: my research showed me that the League’s positions aligned exactly with my values as a budding young feminist, and the breadth of the issues that the organization worked on would allow me to expand my horizons and learn about more pressing topics in today’s society.
At TCNJ, I was involved in reproductive rights work, and it was becoming abundantly clear to me that many – but by no means all – young people on my campus were not well-informed about the political process. When I talked to my peers about feminist issues and the work I did, many expressed that they felt that government was “too complicated” or that nothing they could do as an individual would make change. I knew that this was not true, but it was hard for me as one person to educate an entire community.
After I was accepted for the internship position and I learned more about the League and its educational work, I realized that this organization was doing exactly what I had wished I could do. The League demystified the political process for New Jersey residents; as I worked on the candidates’ questionnaires for that year’s election and as I prepared myself to take calls on the Voter Hotline, I saw first-hand how League members were dedicated to encouraging informed and active participation in government, as our mission statement says.
I was so thrilled with what I saw during my time as an intern that I vowed to stay involved however I could. Several years later, when I was asked to help work on a new initiative to encourage young people to participate in the League and provide education to young people on the issues the League advocates on, I was more than happy to take part. Now, the Young People’s Network is a growing group of young people who are passing along the message that being involved in the political process and advocating for issues you care about isn’t a scary task – it is fully within reach, and it is every young person’s right to get involved and have their voice heard.
I am proud to say that I am a member of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. I have learned so much from the League, and I look forward to passing that knowledge on and continuing to work to educate our communities.