Students in Congressman Steve Knight’s district are politically active and demanding their voices be heard this year.
“We should have a say in laws that affect us,” Julianna, age 16, told SoCal Daily. “Teenagers have the intellectual capacity to be involved.”
Julianna spoke with SoCal Daily at Vincenzo’s, a Newhall pizza joint that was hosting June’s gathering for CA25 United for Progress (CA25 UP). Julianna was joined by almost a dozen other high school students, and the room was filled with dozens more adults who greeted each other with hugs and smiles.
Before the meeting, CA25 UP founder Philip Germain spoke to SoCal Daily about the group’s mission and accomplishments thus far.
“We’ve registered 2,000 voters and knocked on 10,000 doors,” Germain, who is only 20 years old, told me from his office, located in the same shopping plaza as Vincenzo’s. He started CA25 UP after Trump was elected, and the group is focused on outreach to young people, communities of color, and “decline to state” (DTS) voters — those voters who don’t register as Democrats, Republicans, or any other political party.
Recently, voters registered as DTS exceeded the number of Republicans in California, putting them as the second-largest voting bloc behind Democrats.
Germain, with fiery red hair, glasses, and sitting in a generic metal folding chair, spoke openly about the health care issues in his own family, and his father’s struggles with stage four cancer.
Knight’s vote against the Affordable Care Act, and Knight’s support of the Republican health care repeal bill that would have caused more than 20 million people to lose health insurance, motivates Germain.
“Knight is a horrible human being,” Germain said.
With CA25 UP, Germain is hoping to attract a new generation of leaders, and reach segments of the population not usually reached. He especially wants it to be a welcoming environment for DTS voters.
In addition to voter registration drives, Germain spoke about a river clean-up project that high school students organized. The group has a focus broader than just politics, but he is not afraid to make a splash in the political arena, either.
In March, when students around the country, including Knight’s district, held a school walkout to bring attention to gun violence, CA 25 UP unveiled a billboard pointing out Knight’s A rating from the NRA.
Throughout the interview, Germain kept coming back to the organization’s focus.
“We want to give students, youth, and millennials the opportunity to get involved on their own terms,” he says.
At Vincenzo’s, students were not shy about the reasons they are getting involved.
“Climate change,” volunteered Sophia. She went on to speak about the severity of the issue, the need for better science to filter out pollutants, and her desire for “pro-science” candidates.
“I was terrified,” said Ashley, age 18, who moved to the United States about seven years ago from Germany.
Abbey described threats she has heard about at her own school, and the “continued terror” the threat of gun violence has on the schools and community.
“It’s only a matter of time until it happens here,” Abbey said ominously. She also expressed frustration at the lack of action from the government to make the situation better, calling the inaction, “absolutely ridiculous.”
Despite pleas from students and others, Knight refuses to stop taking money from pro-gun groups like the NRA. Since he has been in Congress, Knight has voted against gun control legislation at every opportunity.
A short time later, when she saw news break on Twitter, Ashley immediately shared it with Abbey and Julianna.
“Trump is threatening to pull out of the U.N. Human Rights Council,” Ashley said with more than a hint of disgust. “He already tried to blow up the G-7.”
Whether issues that impact them in their own lives, or involve international geopolitics, these students are plugged in. And with the help of groups like CA25 UP, they are determined to come together and make their voices heard.