Classmates urged to get politically involved
FAIRFIELD — A student-led push is calling on town high school students to get involved in government and the realm of politics, to vote and to raise their unique voices.
The GIVE Campaign, a non-partisan effort to get classmates engaged in politics and registered to vote, launched recently at Fairfield Ludlowe High School. A group of students from Sara Kempner’s Advanced Placement U.S. government and politics class started the campaign, wanting to connect what they learned in the classroom to action.
“What I love about the GIVE Campaign is it’s all about the spread — it’s like wildfire — the spread of awareness,” senior Mia Tommins said. “What I would love to see is a lot more action in our generation.”
For Sophia Ross, GIVE has offered her a chance to stand strongly for something she believes in. For the high school senior that cause is women’s rights.
“It was kind of the first time that any of us had really been encouraged to join something or promote our own beliefs because a lot of the time we get so caught up in listening to other people,” Ross said. “It was the first thing that really challenged us to think about what is something we really want to stand for, rather than that we’re against.”
Others drew inspiration from the recent presidential race. Senior Katherine Luttmann supported Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the election and is now channeling her reaction to the results into GIVE’s effort to encourage civic engagement.
“I was pretty frustrated, and I didn’t really know how to express that frustration or get involved politically,” she said. “I wanted to make sure I got up and spoke, and getting involved in something I don’t usually have the opportunity to is really cool.”
Students have been “super-charged” all year about connecting the government and politics lessons they are learning to what is going on around them, Kempner said. Fairfield schools ask teachers to give a mid-year survey and on Kempner’s results she found many students wanted more ways to engage. Due to student passion and work, the movement began.
Among efforts, the students invited U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., to host a town hall at their high school. The senator took the students’ suggestion and on Feb. 23, Murphy spoke and answered student questions along with U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly. The GIVE Campaign hopes to bring more state and local representatives in to speak directly with students.
The Ludlowe students invited other area schools — including Fairfield Warde High School — to attend the town hall as well, hoping to spread their message to teenagers beyond Ludlowe’s halls. Students also posted selfies with posters they crafted for the event suggesting forms of engagement from letter writing to peaceful protest on social media using #studentsGIVEcampaign to widen their audience.
“Something we really wanted to do was put what we’ve been learning in the classroom in real-life applications, like having these real politicians speak,” Tommins said. “We kind of took a break from the College Board curriculum and said, ‘What’s going on in the world right now?’ Because it’s such a thrilling time to focus on politics and focus on where do we fit in.”
The Ludlowe senior never imagined she would get to see her senator and a U.S. attorney visiting her own school to speak with her and her classmates. After the town hall, she was left with a sense politicians and government officials truly care about what her generation has to offer.
Ross and Luttmann were surprised by how unscripted the town hall felt as Murphy and Daly answered questions from their classmates. Political figures can feel foreign, Ross explained, but having representatives speaking in her school gave the government a more personal feel.