SOMERSET, NJ - Students from 11 Central New Jersey schools competed in the League of Women Voters' (Greater New Brunswick Chapter) inaugural "Y Vote" contest earlier this year.
Already a big hit, the contest drew 91 responses - 77 essays, and 14 videos. The top entries in both categories received $500, while $200 went to second place, and $100 to third place. Watchung Hills’ students won first place and honorable mention.
Four students from Franklin High School won the third-place prize for their video entry. They donated their prize to Franklin High School Aspects After Hours Club
"America, we've been given a superpower," FHS student Julien Hector said. "A power that is right at our fingertips. It's time we use it."
And although some of the winners are not yet of voting age, Iris Klein, one of the LWVGNBC steering committee members, said these young voices still had a compelling message to share.
“It’s a pilot project,” she explained. “It’s a very new chapter, and one of the members was thinking, ‘What could we do to motivate people coming out to vote, particularly young people?’”
Klein says some of the entries that did not win also provided some very valuable insights.
J.P. Stevens High School student, Priyan Selvakumar wrote the following in his essay:
My hometown recently elected a young councilman who has been at the forefront of an initiative to get high schoolers more involved in their community and politics. He was a strong advocate for student safety following recent shootings and helped get several safety measures passed. He started an internship program for high schoolers in City Hall and has taken a strong stance regarding making our town more environmentally friendly. He is a strong advocate for solutions to our community's most pressing issues and a passionate councilman who has undoubtedly helped our town and will continue to do so in the future. And he almost did not get elected. In fact, he won by one vote.
Metuchen High School student, Sarah Terracina wrote the following in her essay:
Why vote? Because you aren't going to the same places as everyone else. Because we all know how hard it is today for those leaving our schools and entering the workforce. Because of student loans. Minimum wage. Healthcare. Jobs. Rent. Those you vote in today can help or hurt you, not just today, but in four or five years - when it matters most. Act now, take control of your future, and don't let your problems lay in the hands of people whose policies you don't even recognize. Vote.
The first is from an essay by Karina Diaz who attends Bishop George Ahr High School:
For someone like me, a girl, the right to vote is more than just the click of a button. Women fought for suffrage in the 1920's. The only "right" they had back then was to find a "good husband" to make choices for them. The world we live in today continues to be male-dominated and the only way to change that is by going out and voting. I believe the first step in stopping the next young girl from having to say #MeToo is by having a person in office who will stand by us and support this movement.
"A government by the people, for the people, just can't work without the people," Asha Chandrika of Piscataway High School said.
Watchung Hills High school student, Annabel Liao wrote the following in her essay:
I take pride in being able to say that I come from the greatest melting pot in the world. With a diverse population of immigrants from all over the globe occupying the United States, we need people of all age groups, all ethnic backgrounds, all socioeconomic backgrounds, all levels of education, and all beliefs to vote. We need political figures to be a true reflection of the people, not just another politician with their own order of agenda.
"One opinion, one voice, and one check next to a candidate's name," Ritika Thomas of Bridgewater-Raritan High School said. "Voting is empowerment."
Klien said she hopes these words from our future voters will resonate with all voters on November 6.