Student aims to give youths a forum for involvement
November 11, 2008
By Chantelle Lusebrink
Alex Severin, a senior at Issaquah High School, anxiously waited for the polls to close Nov. 4.
But simply watching the world change around him wasn’t good enough.
Though the 17-year-old couldn’t vote in the election, he’s been more engaged than most — volunteering for local democratic campaigns, making last-minute calls to voters and intently following the news.
But he wanted to make more of an impact, especially among young voters.So, he turned to the Internet and started a political forum, called The Youth Movement, in early September, with Stephen Petkis, a 17-year-old from Connecticut.
The site is aimed at the youngest voters in America, 18-27, as well as teens who are not yet able to vote.
The two formed their idea after meeting on musician Kanye West’s Web site.
“I’m a big hip-hop guy. It’s a cool Web site and everybody is really chill,” Severin said. “But there wasn’t a political section until both of us started talking during Super Tuesday and it turned into a huge thread.”
When they began talking about politics more than music, they decided it was time to find a new venue for their discussions, he said.
Finding little in the way of a venue for youths to voice their opinions, they decided to create their own site.
“It’s frustrating as a teenager to see problems that affect you either directly or indirectly yet not be able to vote for the candidate you feel can best solve those problems,” Petkis wrote. But “too many young kids see voting as the be all, end all of civic participation. There are plenty of other ways to effect change in the community, or just get your voice out there.”
“Our dream is to start a place that actually engages youth and kids, who may not understand as much about politics, and give them a place to learn about it and the issues, which will help them vote,” Severin said.
The site has a blog, written by Severin and Petkis and six other contributors of roughly the same age.
Topics on the blog have included debating the work experience of the candidates, providing perspective on debates, pondering questions about the electoral college, and identifying accurate and inaccurate statements on advertising campaigns from the presidential campaign.
Now that those are over, there are several new posts about the direction the president-elect is taking and comments regarding the new congressional seats and majorities.
After each post, there is a place for others to comment, debate and exchange ideas.
While the site is leftward leaning, Severin said the group hopes to engage young people from any political point of view.
The authors temper their posts by fact-checking their information and balancing them from various news sources, both left, moderate and right leaning, he said.
He also said that just because the site is aimed at youth doesn’t make it closed to people from other generations.
“We encourage everyone to check it out and participate,” he said. “Though youth is our target, older generations can mentor and work to help us educate youth.”
Get involved in the discussion at http://theyouthmovement.org.
Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org.