Getting involved

Exploring the role of youth in political activism


Lauren Chuu

Pizza and Politics hosted students and other local governmental candidates in a discussion on Friday, Oct. 21.

Lauren Chuu and Mira Wagner

In light of the upcoming midterm elections, the biennial Pizza and Politics youth forum, aimed at spreading awareness about the importance of student involvement in politics, hosted local policymakers and teen debaters at the Cupertino City Hall on Oct. 21. The purpose of the forum was to allow youth to engage in local issues on a more interactive level by creating a space for open discussion regarding politics. One of the debaters, sophomore Saanvi Goyal, finds that forums like Pizza and Politics allow people to feel included in political spaces they may have been excluded from before. 

“We live in an area where a lot of people have a lot of resources given to them, but the people that don’t are typically not given the help they need,” Goyal said. “I think a major issue to address is how to get people who maybe don’t have the financial resources to have the same amount of attention and care that they need to engage.” 

Goyal’s interest in politics developed through her involvement in speech and debate after learning about issues that were not only international, but also local. On the other hand, senior Jeremiah Moli says his interest in politics stems from a more human-driven perspective.

Sophomore Saanvi Goyal explains her opinion regarding community-based politics.

“Seeing how people operate and how they [use] their personal values to help other people has always been an interest of mine, and I’ve always wanted to help other people,” Moli said. “That’s what motivated me to learn about politics and be like, ‘OK, this is something I want to do.’”

Like Goyal, the international and local scale of politics also influences Moli due to their strong prevalence in his daily life. He aspires to work as a chief of staff in the future and apply his interest in politics in his career. 

I think politics influence everything that we do, especially now,” Moli said. “Being knowledgeable in certain political topics is helpful for you to understand how the world works and why things happen in different ways and why things are happening now.”

Similarly, AP Government teacher Benjamin Recktenwald stresses the importance of voting as an aspect of youth in politics. He finds that the impact of the public’s vote is currently undervalued, making the upcoming midterms even more important to consider. To him, it’s crucial that people take the time to vote because of how impactful government actions are. 

“Whether you are happy with [the] US government or not, there [are] certain things the US government’s doing that have [a] huge impact not just in our country, but all around the world,” Recktenwald said. “So it’s kind of frightening to think [of] the possible prospects and my fingers [are] crossed.”

For students who want to get involved in politics and make a difference through voting or other aspects of politics, Goyal recommends first learning more about a subject they are interested in. 

The first step is just being aware of what’s going on around you, like reading the news and keeping up with what’s going on,” Goyal said. “Schools typically have a lot of good opportunities to get involved, like politics club or speech. Places where you discuss these kinds of issues are great ways to dip your foot into it.”

Like Goyal in speech and debate, Moli also finds that a good way to get involved is through educating himself and observing. Although he believes interning for politicians as a teenager entails a large amount of busy work and less real political experience, he finds that a great way to get involved is by going to protests or public City Council meetings. 

“There’s tons of opportunities for us to get involved,” Moli said. “It’s really just taking that step from it being in your head and going out there and actually doing something about it, which is something I’m trying to work on as I get older.”

Recktenwald also stresses that awareness of current societal issues is imperative for youth. While he acknowledges that students may not have a direct impact on elections, he believes that they can help to educate others. 

“[Students have opportunities], for example, to volunteer on campaigns to get [others] informed, [or to] help their parents understand the issues,” Recktenwald said. “[Even] if students aren’t citizens, and therefore are prohibited from voting until they become a citizen, [there] are a lot of things [they] can do to participate and get involved in the system.” 

Recktenwald has implemented this idea in his class by connecting government topics with ongoing current events and requiring students to research and present on issues in the midterm elections.

As for Goyal, she stresses the power of being involved in politics and notes its importance for the future. 

“A couple years down the line, we’re going to be the ones voting,” Goyal said. “Even though [Pizza and Politics] was a small scale setting, being able to [make decisions about] what people say is an important skill. I think it’s really going to help us in the future when we’re making bigger decisions in terms of politics.”