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Chester County Press

What they're saying

10/30/2018 01:31PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Meredith Haas

Contributing Writer

Voting is an American right.

It's a right that will be practiced in the upcoming midterms, and there is every indication that young voters will be a key voice and factor in who gets to decide the future of the American political system beginning in 2019 and beyond.

According to the American Census, young voter turnout went up 1.1 percent in the 2016 elections compared to 2012, and as the young generation prepares to take its mantle as the Future of America, that slight jump shows a clear indication that among those in the 18-29 age bracket, the initiative to stay involved in the political arena may be on the rise.

Many are seeking the facts, searching for the vote that will influence their world in the best ways possible, while showing a true interest in the political world today and how it works. Seeing this slight shift in favor of being involved in politics, I decided to sit down with students and teachers to uncover what they think about the upcoming midterms and our political world as a whole. I wanted to know whether they feel that their generation will shake the political world and make a difference.

For Anthony Ferroni, a student at Delaware County Community College, the upcoming elections – and the entire political environment – is personal. As the son of parents who own New Garden Fresh, Ferroni witnesses issues first-hand – chiefly, the issue of immigration and deportation.

“With our new administration, I don't see much of a push to assist undocumented workers,” Ferroni said. “There is a fear among immigrant workers that if you mess up, you get sent back home. That is how it is if you go to any mushroom company today.”

Ferroni witnesses at his family business that labor loss is a great issue due to the heightened immigration issue. The Washington Times reported that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the removal of illegal immigrants has risen 9 percent from 2017 within the first nine months of 2018.

“If it is happening somewhere as small as my area, I can’t imagine what is happening miles and miles from here,” Ferroni said. “I will say that it is a big issue. The people who come here not only bring economic opportunity for themselves and the communities they work in, but they also bring culture. You always need more diversity.”

Some young voters admit that all of this conflict pushes them away from wanting to know more. “I used to watch the news a lot, but now there is too much drama and a lot of the past being brought up,” said Annalyn Procopio, an 18-year-old freshman at Delaware County Community College. “I feel like the United States is focusing on the little issues, when there are bigger issues out there, like immigration, stopping potential threats of violence, and the environment to contend with.

“I think if we sit down, not fight and discuss on a common ground, we would get things done. If we focus on just the facts, we would be better off when going to vote.”

Avon Grove High School history teacher Mitch Masucci said when he speaks to young people about political issues, he encourages them to recognize that facts and figures go through the spin machine of liberal and conservative thought.

“One part of teaching government, or any social studies, is teaching to recognize bias and to know that everything out there has some type of bias to it,” Masucci said. “It's about knowing how you determine what the bias is and how you can you extract the real information with it.”

Grace Carr-Harkins, an 18-year-old freshman at Millersville University, agrees. When asked if she was voting, she replied with an exuberant “Yes! You should definitely vote. Get your opinion out there, think about what is best, but also put yourself in the position of others and truly think.”

Carr-Harkins said she believes that when she goes to vote, she will try to make the most informed decision while looking at every factual side of the story when obtaining information from the internet.

“Social media is huge, but it can be dangerous,” Carr-Harkins said. “Many people can say things without thinking.”

With the pronounced use of social media, Carr-Harkins sees how it can be so defining for people her age. She believes it is the largest influence on her generation, and will be for long into the future. Not only does she see the influence on her peers, but on herself as well, as she obtains most of her information similarly.

“I am sure I have been influenced,” she said. “I will read things and it will make me think a certain way. The point I am trying to make is that these ideas don’t make you biased.

“If you are using Twitter and you cannot cite it in your English paper, then you probably should not be using those facts,” she said. “Taking that extra step and finding out the facts will help us all in the long run.”

Massuci said the smallest voice can be heard, as long as it is an informed opinion.

“We saw in this past year with the school shootings, students who were nowhere near being able to vote were going out and expressing their thoughts, either in one direction or the other,” he said. “I have students in my classes who cannot vote but still actively go out and campaign with their parents. I think once you have the right to vote, you can exercise it however you want to. It could be for any reason. But I think you should be voting for informed purposes.”

Christopher Steinbrecher, a sociology professor at Delaware County Community College, said that the younger generation can become involved in changing the system by accomplishing one simple task: Registering to vote.

“I asked my 18-year-old stepdaughter if she is registered to vote,” he said. “She told me, ‘I don’t know.’ I said, 'Well, get online and register,' and she reluctantly said, ‘But why?’ We need to stay focused, find the sources that we can trust, and question everything.”

Regarding the future, Steinbrecher wants to instill in young people one key piece of advice that he always shares with his students. “Question everything,” he said. “Question everything you believe in, and try to get down to the bottom of the whole story.”

“I think the younger generation is trying to make a change,” said Douglas McCann, Supervisor of the Learning Commons at Delaware County Community College. “I think they are sick of what the government is doing, so they do try to make a change. From the conversations that I hear, their opinions and the things they have asked my opinions on show they are digging.”

Meredith Haas is a 2018 graduate of Avon Grove High School. She attends Delaware County Community College at the Pennocks Bridge campus.