So You Wanna Get Involved in Politics? Here’s Where to Start.

A guide to taking civic engagement personally

7 mins read

Getting involved in politics, especially when you’re young, can feel complicated and more trouble than it’s worth. I was raised to pay attention and care about the state of the world, but getting out and taking action was still a big step, even for me. I was embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know where to start! Due to a lack of civics education in U.S. classrooms, many young adults might not understand that they can still be champions of progress without casting a ballot. 

One of my favorite teachers once told me, “Don’t think about what you want to do. Think about what you would like to change.” So I encourage you to take a look at the world around you and start keeping a list. What do you want to change? If, like me, you aren’t quite sure where to begin, here are some helpful ways to get started: 

collage – Adam Stolorow

  1. Read the news!

Plenty of newspapers offer reduced rates, or even free subscriptions, to students and teachers, and others offer a certain number of free articles per month. If you’re not a frequent news-reader, even scanning two or three articles in the morning can help you get a little more informed. Most newspapers offer free email newsletters that compile the biggest stories of the day into a short email that you can read to start your day. If you have the time, try to read articles from different sources for additional details and perspectives.

  1. Run for school government! 

Your school is likely one of the most important communities you belong to at this point in your life. Although school governments vary in how much they oversee, understanding the issues that affect your school community, running a campaign, and working with other student leaders are all great ways to prepare for politics in broader communities. 

  1. Join your school’s debate team!

Speech and debate teams or clubs are a great place to learn more about the major issues in politics and news and start formulating your own opinions on them. Plus, you’ll be able to develop your confidence speaking in front of a crowd.

  1. Attend city council meetings!

City council meetings are open to the public, except under special circumstances. Attending your local city council meeting is a great way to get a sense of what matters to your community and how your local leaders are taking action on it. It’s also a good first step to becoming a political leader yourself down the road. Knowing how government works is crucial to becoming a part of it. 

  1. Find your representatives and reach out!

Your representatives, whether at the local, state, or national level, are there to represent YOU. Yes, you—even if you’re too young to vote for them. Elected representatives have a responsibility to represent their electorate accurately, even and especially those who are too young to vote. So let your representatives know what you believe. All members of Congress maintain and respond to public email addresses and phone numbers, so, even if it takes a while, someone in their office will take the time to listen and respond to you. Go to and to find contact information for your Congressional representatives, and do some research on your own to find information on your state and local level representatives. 

  1. Join your local Mayor’s Youth Council!

Some cities have Mayor’s Youth Councils—programs specifically for politically-minded youth. These councils aim to support and educate young civics leaders as they learn about government and help them develop leadership skills. Youth councils also typically discuss youth-related issues and build relationships with current political leaders. If you’re interested in making an impact on your local community and being directly involved in your municipal government, applying to your local Mayor’s Youth Council is a great place to start!

  1. Watch debates during campaigns!

During the run-up to an election, candidates often face off in debates that are publicly broadcasted. Some questions are chosen ahead of time by debate moderators, while others are asked by citizens in the audience. Debates are a great way to learn not only about candidates’ views, but about how they respond to stressful situations and unknown challenges. Debates are often much more informative than speeches or websites, purely because the candidates cannot prepare all of their answers ahead of time.

  1. Work the polls!

Some states allow high school students to work as election clerks on polling days. You can earn volunteer hours, and in some cases you can even get paid, to check in and organize voters on Election Day! Polling locations can always use more help, and you’ll get the chance to participate in the democratic process on a really important day. What’s more, when you are old enough to vote, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to be ready for the polls.

  1. Volunteer for candidates!

It’s 2022 and the midterm elections are right around the corner. If you already have a candidate you support, consider canvassing or phonebanking for them in the next election! You’ll be given a script and a list of addresses or phone numbers, and you’ll talk with people in your area about your candidate of choice! You might even convince a few people to vote who wouldn’t have otherwise!

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