All trains lead to voter registration
I could hear the commotion of the venue as I exited the L train stop on West 14th Street. My friend Ava and I had lugged a bag filled with candy, stickers, info-sheets about The Civics Center, and a hundred voter registration forms across two different NYC Subway lines. When we reached our destination, a student greeted us and asked us to follow him on Instagram in true Generation-Z form as he welcomed us to the LaGuardia High School Arts and Action event.
The performing arts high school is known for robust activism that runs throughout its student body. There were freshmen-through-alumni walking around a room bursting with tables laden in Pride flags and Planned Parenthood paraphernalia. Tables staffed by representatives from advocacy organizations lined the walls of a room that could barely hold the fifty people in itself. There were student performances relating to advocacy before a period for interaction with the representatives, so students were still conglomerated in the center of the venue, hugging and congratulating each other on the work they had put into this.
Ava and I set up The Civics Center table next to the Planned Parenthood table which had goody-bags and info sheets as well. There was an organization advocating to prevent gun violence next to a group called Teens Take Charge, advocating for education equity in NYC. Ava and I called out to invite people to the table, but soon found we didn’t need to, as students began to approach to initiate intimate discussions with the representatives about their respective organizations. We discussed The Civics Center mission to engage high school students in voting and registering to vote, and the LaGuardia students’ eyes would widen, as they swooned over how important the cause was. I asked every person to preregister who approached our table--and shouted across the room to others who hadn’t directly approached us too. The wonderful, unexpected response I got from the majority of students, was “I would, but I am already preregistered.” Students often took our stickers anyway because they were so thrilled by the idea of voting. They weren’t just putting on a show of being activists, they were taking the steps necessary to make their voices heard.
Two students, Isabel Janovsky and Tali Natter, the graduating seniors who organized the event, explained that representatives from the NYC Mayor’s office had come to LaGuardia to inform students about the importance of preregistration, and gave the students the opportunity to do so earlier in the year. Isabel, Tali, and I had a wonderful conversation about the work The Civics Center does, the importance of these kinds of events for organizations like ours, and how we can improve these events in the future. Even though we found only three people to preregister, knowing these students were already engaged and ready to vote was enormously gratifying. Regardless of the means, the ends remain the same: high school students who are ready and excited to vote.