Activists and mobilizers united to encourage young people to support the Democratic Party at the polls during the "High Impact Day of Youth Community Service" event at the Democratic Convention last week. Although 18 to 24-year olds statistically have a low voter turnout, they are active in their communities, volunteering at soup kitchens, recycling centers and senior citizens 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 right away. That's why they like volunteering. Many are not excited about voting because they don't think it pertains to them and they may never see the results of a trip to the voting booth. If they volunteer at a food bank they can see people walk away full. Plus, community service is more social. It's something you can do with friends. Dawn Smalls, a 22-year-old volunteer with the Democratic National Convention Committee, agreed that there is a disconnect between community service and voting participation. "Young people are looking for a form of expression," she said. "They're frustrated with the results that they see out of the political process which tends to take some more time. But community and social activism is something that you can see the results at right away. You can protest, you can put up a
sign and you can feel part of the process. "But voting is a little more of a passive process, in the sense that you are not 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 vote doesn't count but it does." "I think that is something we really need to work on in terms of channeling the energy that so many young people put into social activism into the political process," said Smalls. And that's exactly what ServiceVote 2000 is trying to do. The organization is a "national campaign to encourage young volunteers between the ages of 18 to 24 to get involved in the political process through civic education," said Matt Leiber, campaign manager from Boston. He got involved in the organization because of what he learned by volunteering. "Community service is very important to me because it really woke me to the realities of the world and the way I could help make a change as well as learn more about myself," he said. "I could make a change not just through my work there but also by talking to the politicians and really getting 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 up the volunteer movement and saying you've got to make a change."
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