Every month the League of Women Voters St. Paul (LWVSP) hosts a program in the series “Our St. Paul: Learn with the League.” The Nov. 30, 2021 Zoom/Facebook Live program featured Como Park High School Senior Pa Nra Lee on a panel showcasing the student leader projects from autumn 2021.
Additional panelists included former LWVSP Youth Vote Chair Dan Krivit, and LWVSP Youth Vote Co-chair and Macalester College student Lia Pak. The hour-long program hosted by LWVSP Co-President Heidi Kloempken was recorded on YouTube and broadcast by SPNN (St. Paul Neighborhood Network) and SCC (Suburban Community Channel).
Dan Krivit outlined the League’s Youth Vote Program, which partners with the Minnesota Secretary of State and the Ramsey County Student Election Judge Program. The high school student leaders interact with their peers and a teacher liaison. The program receives grant dollars, as well as direct support from LWVSP members, which allows student leaders to earn a $100 stipend for the semester’s work. Engaged in eleven St. Paul high schools, the Youth Vote Team has made over 200 presentations, made roughly 4,000 student contacts, totaling 48 student leaders since the inception of the program.
The current group, smaller in this season of local-only elections, includes seven highly engaged students in three schools (Washington Tech, Como and St. Paul Central). The League expects numbers to swell with mid-term elections coming in 2022. Any interested high school student can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for the spring 2022.
Student leaders come up with their own projects, including posters, videos, presentations to history classes, and events to register eligible voters in their school. Data suggests that asking a student directly about voting and political engagement is effective in increasing voting in that young cohort.
Krivit highlighted a poster and morning school announcement on political advocacy and voter registration by CPHS student Chittra Xiong. Student Anas Mohamed from Washington Tech made videos in two languages explaining the census, ranked choice, and the rent stabilization issue. Nora Fairbanks and Iris Steiner-Manning from St. Paul Central researched and outlined the ranked choice process with a focus on the school board candidates to their peers. They maintained the League’s non-partisan commitment while visiting every class in senior government and social studies classes with their work.
The program’s finale was ably handled by CPHS senior Pa Nra Lee. She became involved with the St. Paul League’s Youth Vote program because she was looking for ways to grow and be challenged, was curious about the league, and wanted to work on her public speaking skills.
Lee, Chikamso Chijioke, and Lucy Hebble researched how to encourage teens to register and vote. Pa Nra showed students where to get reliable candidate information and explained ranked choice issues. The team presented their slide show to eight 12th grade history classes. Her group identified other ways to make one’s voice heard if unable to vote, including letter-writing to representatives, testifying in hearings, and attending protests.
Lee explained to viewers the importance of social media to get voting information to high school and college students. A story about voting on Instagram gets shared, then seen at school, then talked about with friends, which helps magnify the issue. Lee found it was hard for high schoolers younger than 18 to engage with voting, so she urged those younger peers to reach out to their broader community, especially parents and older siblings, with the data from her group’s project. Lee received high marks from listener feedback on the program for her poise and knowledge during her presentation and the question-and-answer period.
Kloempken ended the program asking both Pak and Lee to consider running for elected office. Neither has immediate plans for a political career, but both would appreciate the community watching this program on YouTube and talking about the Youth Vote Program with friends and family to extend support.
Learn more about the League of Women Voter’s – St. Paul at www.lwvsp.org
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