Well, the 2016 election is finally over. And to say that many people are unhappy about the result would be a complete understatement. If you’re one of the people who is devastated and shaken, I can empathize. I was a passionate supporter of Hillary Clinton. I followed her campaign since the beginning, wept with joy when she accepted the Democratic nomination, and then channeled that inspiration to become an intern for her campaign, fully believing I was on the path to helping reject hate and in the process elect our first woman president.
So after the winner of the election was announced, I was not only disappointed, but grief-stricken.
And I know I’m not the only one.Many people are in despair after November 8ths result. They’re scared. People, especially in vulnerable situations, feel powerless.
Now I know exactly what it’s like to feel vulnerable and powerless. I’m a 14 year old girl. In our society, I don’t have much of a voice at all. And if you’re a young person who's upset about the election results, I’m sure powerless is one of the many emotions you’re feeling too. But right now is not the time to turn cynical. It’s not the time to throw your hands up and say, “That’s it, the world has gone nuts, I’m never tuning into politics again, and I’m moving to Canada!”
Now is a time to step up.
You have the potential to make change. Every single person on this planet has talent and something to offer. So right now is a test at how well we can put together our talents and act.
It’s time to stand up for our values and channel our sadness and fear into something good.
But how exactly do we- young people, some of us too young to vote - make a difference?
My answer is: Volunteer. Support organizations that are doing hard work standing up to injustice.
Now I can already hear you groaning: “I don’t have time to volunteer! I’m busy! I’ve got choir, soccer practice, school, homework….I can’t fit volunteering into my schedule!”’
I’m quite the busy girl too. I know volunteering takes effort. Believe me, as a person who's gotten involved herself, I know how hard taking the steps to get out there and make a difference are. But it’s totally worth it in the end. Worth the positive difference you’re making in the world. Worth the amazing people you’ll meet.
If I hadn’t signed up to volunteer for the Clinton campaign, I would have never gotten the chance to meet my state’s senator, attend two political rallies, see Hillary Clinton herself speak in person, raise my voice at a Town Hall, and meet Chelsea Clinton.
Those experiences have transformed me. Who knows if volunteering will transform you too? Taking the leap of faith and signing up for a volunteer shift is the best way to channel that post-election despair and stand up for what you believe in. (And if all other motivation fails, it looks great on a college application.)
But where do you even start? Well, I’ve done my research and come up with a list of 15 causes, and organizations that support those causes, that could really use your help:
1. Individual Rights and Liberties: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
2. Reproductive Rights: Planned Parenthood.
3. Islamophobia: Council On American–Islamic Relations (CAIR).
4. Hate groups and Intolerance: Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
5. Women’s rights and feminism: National Organization for Women (NOW).
6. Sexual Violenc: RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network
7. Police violence: Campaign Zero
11. LGBTQ safety and wellbeing: The Trevor Project
12. Preserving natural resources and Wildlife: Sierra Club
13. Human rights and Refugee issues: Human Rights First.
14.Native American and Tribe Rights: Native American Rights Fund (NARF).
15. Environmental Justice and clean energy: Earthjustice.
Now if you see some groups and causes that interest you, how do you contact them? How do you actually sign up for that shift and get to work?
Well, sometimes, the websites will be clear about how you can get involved. Sometimes, you have to hunt through the pages to find a “how to help” or “about us” that will give you the information you need. But if there isn’t, in the “contact us” or “info” there will always be an email. Don’t be afraid to send a message to that address. It’s amazing how far one little email can take you.
I emailed the CAIR organization and the very next day I got a very kind, gracious, encouraging response about what I could do to help them. Now if you’re nervous about reaching out, I get it. But a short little email telling an organization who you are and asking how you can help takes only a few minutes to write and you’ll be glad you did.
If you’re uneasy about volunteering for someplace new new alone, get your friends involved! Bringing friends is always a win-win, because its makes the experience even more fun, and the organization gets even more helping hands! Plan a day on the weekend when you all go out together and volunteer. Trust me, there’s nothing more gratifying than making a difference with your friends by your side.
And then, take it a step further- get your school involved. Share information about these organizations with your teachers. Get permission to send out an email about different volunteering opportunities. Hang flyers around the school, or make an announcement.Tell your student council member about these organizations. (Or if you yourself are in student council, tell everyone else about them.) Organize fun contests between classes: Like whichever class raises the most money for an organization, or has the most combined volunteer hours, wins a pizza party. Get creative!
You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference you can make. It’s just about signing up, showing up, and being open to new things.
We need to be active, engaged citizens. Even if it may not seem like it to you right now, what happens around us in the world and in our country matters. It’s so important for us to care and pay attention to current events, because the future is in our hands. It’s our job to shape it into what we want it to be- and that means rolling our sleeves up.
So get out the last of your election despair. Cry. Rant. Punch things. Then get up. Dust yourself off. And join the fight.
We’ve got a lot of work to do. No matter who our president is, the future is up to us.