Raise Your Voice!

Credit Hamza Aden

Young people are among the least likely to vote. This November, Americans will decide the makeup of the next Congress, and the results could change the course of the nation, or solidify the conservative direction of the country. 

Polls predict that anywhere from 28 to 56 percent of eligible voters under 24 will vote, and their involvement could be key for either Republicans or Democrats.

We want to know what young people think about the upcoming elections and issues today. 

And we've got a few questions that might get you going:

Does voting matter? 

Why don’t young people vote - and what could we do to increase youth engagement at the polls?

Is there an issue that would get you to vote?

What issues should we all care about?

Do you feel like political candidates are speaking to people your age?

Should voting be opened to people even younger than 18? 

How would you get more young people to vote?

We’re looking for your ideas on these issue. Write, shoot video, record and edit audio interviews, nearly anything goes. Pick one or more of these ideas and get rolling. We want to hear from you!

Raise Your Voice! is Maine Public's platform for ideas and perspectives from students and teachers. We reach a broad audience interested in education and supporting young people.

To get started, contact Dave Boardman, our education program coordinator at dboardman@mainepublic.org or call or text him at 207-423-6934.

Credit Photo by imgix on Unsplash

And if you're a teacher and interested in working Raise Your Voice into your curriculum, reach out. We'd love to talk about ways to connect your students with our audiences.

Part of The Maine Education Project and funded by The Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Raise Your Voice! provides a forum for students and educators to share what it means to teach and learn in today's world.

Click the headline of each story to read the full text.

It is easy to dismiss kids’ infatuation with video games as addiction or obsession when in fact, it comes from a completely different reason. I am on the spectrum, so I, along with many others, have gained an immense interest in video games. 

I loved the wonder that they held, and the ability to make me feel powerful. I was no longer the shy, socially awkward kid; I was a wizard, a soldier, hell, even a ringwraith in Cirith Ungol (A location in Lord of the Rings). 

In games, you leave behind the predictable world that plays by very specific rules. Maybe sometimes it is a bit obsessive to want to play constantly. However, I feel it is justified because of the desire to become more than you are.

We have all experienced the feeling when our heart drops to our stomach and our throat tightens; a look of disappointment stares back at us in the mirror.

Failure is unavoidable. It is something that we all have in common, but it is also relative and subjective to each person. Failure shapes us. We can choose to let it keep us from trying again, or we can grow stronger because of it. 

New Mainers Bring Energy, Positive Outlook to State

Oct 2, 2018

In 8th grade, I was struggling with friends. I felt alone and disconnected from my peers, and school didn’t interest me. Halfway through the school year, a new student arrived. She was from Iraq and had moved to the United States a couple of years prior. 

Over the course of the rest of the year, we both took comfort in our friendship after associating with the wrong crowds, and we leaned on each other for emotional support. We bonded over politics, exchanged our thoughts on culture, and gushed over the TV show “Once Upon a Time.” As I got to know her better, I learned she and her family fled violence in their home country, and the U.S. was one of the last places they could turn.

Growing up on a tiny island off the coast of Maine, Lucia Daranyi noticed the increase of trash and the snow still melting far into spring.  However, it was when her 6th grade science teacher focused her on the “big problems” that her passion for protecting the environment came out. 

Today, her big problem is the state government. Daranyi, 16, works with Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit, in her home state. She, along with several other youth, spoke to change a 2003 Maine law that entitles the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions “sufficient to eliminate any dangerous threat to the climate.” However the goals have not been met and as a youth activist, Datanyi doesn’t think Maine is doing enough. 

For years the climate has been a part of the global conversation; however, the public has gotten so used to hearing about climate change that for many, it has become an accepted issue. We know it’s happening and recognize that it’s too late to do anything to stop it, so the general population does nothing at all. That is a dangerous mindset.

Around 55 percent of the world lives in an urban area in 2018, and a United Nations study released in May estimates that will increase to around 68 percent by 2050. But the effort surrounding climate change is almost always based off of its impact on the glaciers in Antarctica or fish having to find a new habitat due to rising heat levels in the ocean. 

I'm going to say a word, and I want you to think of the first thing that comes to mind. The word? Opioids. What did you think of?

I asked this same question to a variety of different people over the summer, ranging from food stall owners to recovering addicts, all of whom I came across on the streets of Portland.

You’ve probably had one of those moments, driving down some packed city street or a rural backroad relying on a directions app, when you’ve exclaimed, “What did we do before phones?” Ask a member of Generation Z, and they may not be able to tell you. 

Some may bemoan map reading as a lost art, still others may say good riddance to a difficult and outdated system. No matter where you stand on the particular issue of digital directions, it is hard to argue that the cell phone hasn’t enhanced society.

From easier communication to near-universal access to the world-wide web, from personal cameras to portable music players, the cell phone has completely changed human life, and in many ways for the better. 

But what happens to a vulnerable part of the population—teenagers—who hardly remember a time when cell phones weren’t a universal part of life? 

Want a Voice? Young Voters Can Write the Future

Sep 24, 2018

The day was June 12th, 2018. It was 7:56 am, and the sun was shining brightly in the sky. Everything felt so amazing, so perfect. I felt so light and so jovial as I walked over the dewy, green grass into the town hall. I was as happy as I possibly could have been. Today was going to be a good day because today would be my first time voting. 

I remember how elated I felt as my pen dragged against the paper ballot. This was the day I had been waiting for, for years. I could actually vote. I could finally have a say in how my government was run.

Lessons From Flint: Clean Water is Everyone's Right

Sep 23, 2018

When I was about twelve, my mom and I had stopped at Target and got a Brita water dispenser. It wasn’t particularly large; it should have held about 18 cups worth of water. But, the thing is, when we went through the box once we were home, there was something I wasn’t expecting: a thin cobalt blue, small, electronic device. A water tester. Suddenly, I realized why my mom was willing to spend $30 on a fancy pitcher. 

The past is the consequence of what we have done. The present and the future will be the result of what we are doing in the now; all choices lead us to the future.

My family and I, we made a choice, and that choice brought us here. My name is Jemima, and I am from Angola, a beautiful country, located on the South Atlantic coast of West Africa, between Namibia and Congo, a country that is wonderfully warm, with happy people who love to dance, with beaches and forests, a country where summer is longer than winter.

Outlawing Conversion Therapy Takes Education, Awareness

Sep 10, 2018

What is conversion therapy? The Human Rights Campaign defines it as “a range of dangerous claims and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.” 

Conversion therapy is practiced through several different means, such as prayer, psychotherapy, and aversion therapy. Due to the harm it causes, it has been denounced by every major American medical organization. Conversion therapy has been scientifically proven to cause anxiety, depression, PTSD, and suicidality. The practice is so dangerous that fourteen different states have outlawed it. So, why isn't Maine one of these states?

Everyone has a different connection to music.

Some, like my grandmother, are indifferent -- she knows it exists, but it’s just not for her. And then there’s me; music has always played some part in my life. 

When SAT Tests More Than Knowledge, Students Lose Out

Sep 8, 2018

Standardized testing: two words that will make any student scared.

It usually requires just three things: a sharpened number two pencil, a sheet of paper with bubbles for the answers, and a native English speaker. 

It's Time to Welcome New Cultures With Open Arms

Sep 7, 2018

In the distance, I could see piles of twigs and decaying fabric, each one telling its own story of the Sun Dance Festival. “Don’t step over the branches. It is disrespectful to the spirit of the tree,” they told us. For many years the Blackfeet tribe has cut willow branches, dug holes, and wove their sacred hut. Left to the passage of time, I see the bones of once mighty encampments before us. 

I remember how I felt. I was standing in their field. I was listening to their history. I was part of their culture. The more they shared, the more I learned and respected. At that moment I was not a tourist, but a guest, one of the community. Now, I cannot claim any Blackfeet heritage of my own, but at that moment I reached a level of cultural understanding I could have never imagined I would ever receive.

“You know, you won’t make much money doing that.” 

For a few years now, I wanted to be a social worker because I want to help people and guide them through their hard times. It seems rewarding to watch someone grow into themselves and be more confident. With all that being said, I don’t have a high school diploma yet or an acceptance letter from a college. I haven’t even applied, so my intangible plans of being a social worker are all I currently have. 

The first time I heard I wouldn’t make much money came from a relative of mine. It stung to hear that comment because it reassured my fear that my plans weren’t valid. We sat at the dining room table, and I stayed quiet after he said it, while my aunt harped at him, telling him that money is not all that’s important in life and that I would figure it out. I won’t lie, I was discouraged.