Activists and mobilizers united to encourage young people to support theDemocratic Party at the polls during the "High Impact Day of Youth CommunityService" event at the Democratic Convention last week. Although 18 to 24-yearolds statistically have a low voter turnout, they are active in theircommunities, volunteering at soup kitchens, recycling centers and seniorcitizens centers. This is a trend politicians recognize and want to work with.Young people want to help other people and they want to see results rightaway. That's why they like volunteering. Many are not excited about votingbecause they don't think it pertains to them and they may never see theresults of a trip to the voting booth. If they volunteer at a food bank theycan see people walk away full. Plus, community service is more social. It'ssomething you can do with friends. Dawn Smalls, a 22-year-old volunteer with the Democratic National ConventionCommittee, agreed that there is a disconnect between community service andvoting participation. "Young people are looking for a form of expression," she said. "They'refrustrated with the results that they see out of the political process whichtends to take some more time. But community and social activism is somethingthat you can see the results at right away. You can protest, you can put up asign and you can feel part of the process
. "But voting is a little more of a passive process, in the sense that you arenot right there actively seeing the result." She defined community service as "giving back to the community, which is a lot like voting. By voting you want the best for your community. When you vote you voice your opinion on guiding your community. Some people think one votedoesn't count but it does.""I think that is something we really need to work on in terms of channelingthe energy that so many young people put into social activism into thepolitical process," said Smalls.And that's exactly what ServiceVote 2000 is trying to do. The organization isa "national campaign to encourage young volunteers between the ages of 18 to24 to get involved in the political process through civic education," saidMatt Leiber, campaign manager from Boston.He got involved in the organization because of what he learned byvolunteering. "Community service is very important to me because it reallywoke me to the realities of the world and the way I could help make a changeas well as learn more about myself," he said. "I could make a change not justthrough my work there but also by talking to the politicians and reallygetting them to listen.""They want to make a change in their communities and they are choosing to.They are not apathetic like everyone says. What we are doing is building upthe volunteer movement and saying you've got to make a change."