In the intense, overwhelming, and wearying state of the country right now, one is hit with polarization and division from every direction. Instead of using this as disenchantment, MoCo students have used this as motivation.
In an initiative titled “MoCo to 100,” MoCo students have undertaken the daunting task of registering 100% of high school seniors- a project that has required wide scale organizing, unity, and commitment.
In 2016, only 43% of eligible voters ages 18-29 turned out at the polls. If young people turned out to vote at the same rate older ones did, American democracy would likely look much different. While many experts have attributed numerous factors to this trend, MoCo students have pinpointed one aspect contributing to this trend- youth voter registration- and begun to tackle it.
In Maryland, anyone over the age of 16 can register to vote- a fact many MCPS students were not previously aware of. Therefore, the organization Youth Activism Project proposed a project to register 100% of seniors in Montgomery County to MoCo for change- hence the name MoCo to 100. “After having conversations with organizations and funders in the voter registration space,” Anika Manzoor from YAP explains, “what excited people most was 100% high school registration at district wide levels.”
Together with MoCo for change, YAP came up with an intricate game plan for a project that would span all of MoCo’s 25 public high schools. Each high school was assigned a lead organizer who recruited other senior volunteers to reach out to seniors at their school. These volunteers would enter names of students they newly registered and those already registered into a database MoCo to 100 created to track progress. Each head school organizer worked under a wider field organizer who they could report to for questions or assistance.
Simone Luthra, Northwood High School’s lead organizer explains that she “has always been passionate about voter registration and loves connecting with students, so this was rights up [her] alley.” Being a Junior herself, she had to rely on her senior volunteers to recruit more students and connect her with more seniors.
Living in this virtual pandemic world, social media served as a crucial tool- it was how she reached out to students, promoted the project on instagram, and got other student organizations to promote it on their instagrams. Posting daily during National Voter Registration Week and reaching out to student organizations was a highly effective method to gain a wider audience. However Being in a virtual world was both a blessing and a curse, as reaching out to students not on social media became virtually impossible, and it was easier for seniors who didn’t care or weren’t interested to simply ignore messages. Despite these challenges and some portal malfunctions, Simone explains that she believes the project was a huge success because she not only “saw youth registration numbers never seen before,” but also “educated students on voting, how very important it is to vote, how their voice can impact.” In the first week alone, Northwood volunteers registered 80+ students. Simone explained that she gained leadership and management skills from the project and hoped her volunteers and the students they registered “learned the importance of voting and how much of a difference one can make by simply registering.” She also hopes they learned more about how big projects like this are worth it in the long run.”
While being politically active feels like an agent of division in the current atmosphere, MoCo to 100 has proven the power of the student voice to unite and work towards a common goal.
Written by Abby Leibowitz
Published by PR Department