Terry, an advocate and Educate Tomorrow Changemaker attending Aquinas College, weighs in on advocacy and the importance of voting.
What does advocacy mean to you?
For me, advocacy is the support from a group of people or individuals about an issue they care about and want to see a positive change in policies for a more significant benefit for a specific group of people and what they are fighting for.
Why is it important for young people to advocate for themselves?
Young people must fight for the causes they stand for because they are the ones who know what they need in their day-to-day life and activities. Self-advocacy is the most effective way to show our leaders what we care about regarding policy change.
Write about a time you advocated for yourself or others:
Well, in a simple way, I’m advocating for myself every day because, in general, I know what I want in my life, and I’m doing my best to work toward the personal goals I have set for myself. So working toward those goals could be considered self-advocacy for a better future. Also, I don’t know if this qualifies as advocating for others but in my high school, I helped some of my peers to stand up for themselves so they could come and go to school without the fear of the school bullies they were experiencing. I confronted their bullies directly, which had its impact because, after our confrontation, they never bullied anyone else in the school, at least not to my knowledge. Also, while I was with the Bethany Christian program, I stood up for one of the kids I was living with during an unfair fight that was taking place in the house; my advocacy for him made us brothers until this day.
Write about a time you felt inspired to make a change:
I always believed that I was born to make a difference. Growing up, I felt that our justice system was not serving the people that need justice the most because I believe that the justice system will help you only if you can afford a good lawyer. Sometimes the facts and evidence are so evident that it's hard to believe that the defendant could get away with their crimes, yet they come out clean all the time as if nothing happened. Therefore, the injustices people are suffering inspired me to continue going to school, hoping that one day I will be able to change someone’s life positively.
Write about the impact of voting:
Voting has a considerable impact on how our society is structured. For me, voting is the backbone of our democracy, which makes us different from other countries that don’t have the right to choose their leaders. Our democracy and voting system allow us to elect leaders who hold our best interests in their minds when elected to office. The impact of voting is enormous because it's how we choose what direction our country is heading for future generations.
Why is it important for young people to vote?
Voting is essential for young people for many reasons. One, it gives them the ability to elect the person who will make the laws that they have to follow. Two, they will have the ability to influence the outcome of many issues they deeply care about. Finally, when we vote, we can proudly say that we tried our best for the causes we stand for.
How could professionals work to engage young people in voting?
Professionals/politicians could reach out to the young people with causes that these young people care about, which can be different in every community across the nation. They can engage with them by providing information about the importance of their voices and the difference they could make when they go to the pool to cast their vote. Professionals/politicians could engage with young people by showing that they care about their present and future. And making them understand that their value and the cause they stand for can be achieved only when they do their share of duties which is to vote during elections.
What barriers prevent young people from voting, and how can they be removed?
Not many obstacles prevent young people from voting; it is only about commitment to the issues we care about. However, I think the state and local governments should make the voting process more accessible to young people and everyone and make it easy for people to fulfill their duties as citizens. We’re currently living in the information age so reaching out and spreading voting information to the younger generation shouldn’t be that hard, especially if they get hold of those famous young people on social media.
The most important issue facing young people with experience in foster care/housing instability/homelessness/refugee status today is …?
As a young adult with experience in foster care, housing instability, and refugee status, their financial security and relationships are the most crucial. They need to be provided with the basic assistance that could help them focus on their studies just like normal kids do.
The most important issue facing the country today is …?
The most important issue our country is facing today is the decline of our democratic system and norms. Unfortunately, we’re witnessing many political behaviors and policies taking away much of the progress this country has made since the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.
Fostering Success Michigan is a program of Educate Tomorrow that aims to increase access and success in higher education and post-college careers for youth with experience in foster care. Learn how you can contribute to building a holistic network that insulates (i.e., strengthens protective factors and reduces risks) the education to career "pipeline."Make a Donation