PA Youth Advocacy Network and Partners Convene Teens at Allegheny Youth Voting Huddle

Teens share their perspectives to local leaders.

On March 15, 53 students from 11 area high schools came together at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to discuss issues they care about and learn about the difference their vote can make in elections from the local to the national level. Key issues students identified as areas of concern included education access, reproductive choice, violence prevention, voter engagement, and mental health.

Not only is mental health an issue that teens want to see their elected officials committed to, but involvement in the electoral process can help with some of the anxiety and frustration caused during elections. A Society for Research in Child Development study found that volunteering and voting has been associated with positive mental health outcomes and getting involved with peers and organizations working to impact change creates a sense of social connectedness.

The Allegheny Youth Voting Huddle was organized by a consortium of partners, including the Jewish Healthcare Foundation's PA Youth Advocacy Network, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh, National Council of Jewish Women, PA Youth Vote, New Pennsylvania Project, The Civics Center, and Alliance for Police Accountability.

Jessica Segal, LCSW, behavioral health program associate at JHF speaks with youth at the event.

After students shared their concerns and perspectives on key issues, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Wayne Walters highlighted the importance of young people engaging in the democratic process in keynote addresses. Participants then learned the nuts and bolts of how to register their friends and how to conduct a school-based, youth-led, adult-supported voter registration drive. High school student leaders Orli Trumbull, Esmé Lagrosa, Michael Piasecki, and Nora Zangana led presentations and discussions on youth voting and on running a school-based voter registration drive.

In the lead-up to the event, student leaders participated in a 3-part series of workshops in democracy, civic education, and voting. They then worked with mentors from local organizations to plan the Huddle, and plan to continue, along with new leaders from the Huddle, to register and turn out young voters. 

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