The following is the final 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 Chair Stacey Faella.
Election Day in 2004 was an important day for many Americans, and it was especially memorable to me for another reason: it was my 18th birthday. I still remember feeling a sense of pride that I got to exercise my right to vote for the next U.S. president on my very first day of being a legal adult, but I’ll also admit that I was not as clear about the choice I was making as I should have been. While I had learned the basics of government and civic duty in school, I was not very informed at the time about the candidates among whom I was choosing and the issues for which they stood.
Over a decade has gone by, and in my professional life I now run a family foundation in New York City, where one of the projects I’ve been working on has revolved around engaging millennials for social change. I’m also a new board member of LWVNJ and the committee chair for our recently formed Young People’s Network (YPN), which is focused on increasing civic engagement and League involvement among young people in our state. Both in the work that I do and as a U.S. citizen and NJ resident, I feel a sense of urgency about engaging more young people in politics. We’re a huge generation living in a time and place where so many social and political issues are affecting our lives. I’ve gone from feeling proud about exercising my right to vote to feeling that voting is just the beginning of civic responsibility and opportunity.
For me, getting involved in the League has been a fantastic way to learn more about the political system in the state I live in. Through the YPN committee, I’ve had a window into what it’s like to run for elective office in NJ. Through LWVNJ communications and member activity, I’ve learned about grassroots activity and organizing across the state on all kinds of issues, from our environment to immigration to education. I’ve benefited from the knowledge of longstanding members who have decades of experience and a nuanced understanding of NJ politics. And I’ve had so many interesting conversations with other young people about our political system and key issues that matter to them.
Later this year I’ll be voting in a presidential election for the fourth time, and I can say with certainty that with each election I’ve been more informed on voting day than I had been in the past. This year in particular, I not only have a better understanding of national politics but feel more connected to issues at the state and community level. I have the League to thank, and I feel so lucky for it. I highly encourage young NJ residents to take advantage of LWVNJ’s resources. Check out the LWVNJ website to learn about local political issues and find out about events you might be interested in. Download the Citizens Guide to refresh yourself on our state government. Follow LWVNJ and Young People’s Network on Facebook to stay connected. Join the League so that you too can stay informed and in touch with political activity in our state and even your community. And get involved with YPN so that you can connect with other young members and help encourage an informed and engaged NJ citizenry!