Anne Green is a junior majoring in environmental design, policy and planning, with a minor in globalization studies and international relations with a concentration in law. She is an undergraduate coordinator with Stony Brook’s Center for Civic Justice and served as a Summer 2020 Up to Us Civic Engagement Fellow.
The state of our nation depends upon the checks and balances that we hold our representatives to through democratic elections. We can decide to maintain the status quo or invite the next generation of leadership. Since 2018, I have actively supported voter registration for over 7,000 students at Stony Brook University as an undergraduate student coordinator with the Center for Civic Justice.
As a civic engagement fellow with Up to Us and the leader of Stony Brook’s team in the Up to Us Campus Competition, I am a part of a national cohort of young leaders working to elevate our generation’s collective voice to spark nonpartisan conversations about the importance of fiscal responsibility and economic opportunity, with a focus on finding nonpartisan solutions. I connected students to their local elected officials through the Up to Us Pledge. By signing, students were accomplishing a civic duty by letting their representatives know they care about fiscal responsibility.
In October 2020, I took part in a panel discussion on reinventing civic engagement for the next generation of leaders with Chelsea Clinton. We discussed our optimism for youth involvement in the election following a year of unprecedented civic engagement — a need and responsibility to take part in the democratic process on social media and on the front lines of protests across the nation.
I found purpose in drawing the connection between fiscal responsibility and a student’s everyday life. By creating meaningful educational opportunities, I could positively affect other students and help them take their first steps to lead responsible, sustainable and engaged lives.
My team and I adapted to all virtual outreach amid COVID-19 and helped thousands of students apply for absentee ballots for both New York’s presidential primary election and the 2020 general election. We created a digital form that guided students through the voter registration and absentee ballot application processes while answering all of their questions along the way. Since many of our students were physically displaced amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this made it easy for us to support their voting needs. Despite the circumstances, students were more eager than ever to use their vote as their voice.
I did not have to convince students about the importance of voting. Students were well-aware and excited to show up and make their voices heard. Early estimates from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) suggest that enthusiasm for voting held true far beyond Stony Brook; as much as 55% of voting-eligible people from the ages 18 to 29 years old cast a ballot in the 2020 election.
The challenge now is to harness this enthusiasm for civic engagement beyond the ballot box. An election is not the end of our work — it is merely the beginning. It is essential that we, the youth of this nation, hold our elected officials accountable while advancing the causes we believe in.
By making their voices heard over the past year, young people also clarified that they will be a powerful force to be reckoned with in pursuing justice and social change. This discussion highlighted the collective strength of young voters and foreshadowed the impact they would have come the 2020 general election.
Civic engagement takes on many forms. It can be as simple as educating yourself and your peers about policy issues, it can be as profound as contacting your representatives or even running for elected office yourself. I encourage all young people who are interested in making a difference in your community to stay engaged and be a positive force for dialogue and change.
If this year has taught us anything, it is that every voice matters. Even though the election is over, there is still a lot of work to do.