Youth at the Front Lines of The Elections

High school students and teenaged campaign interns encouraged youth voter engagement at the DuPage Voter Expo on Oct. 24.


Eric Willoughby talks to Saba Haider, a candidate for DuPage County Board. (Photo by Mariyam Syed)

Mariyam Syed, Staff Writer

As the finale of the midterm election draws closer, DuPage County youths have been just as involved as the candidates. They are working hard to educate voters, participate civically, and make sure their voices are heard on pressing issues.

Eric Willoughby, a junior from Hinsdale Central has volunteered with eight campaigns. He expressed confidence that the candidates care about issues that affect younger citizens.

“At the end of the day, this is our system,” Willoughby said. “The candidates are here for us. Ask any candidate why they run for office, 99% of the time one of the answers is gonna be, ‘I’m running for office because of the youth.’” 

Willoughby said there’s value to being involved in the democratic process no matter what age you are.

“I’m 16. I can’t vote, but you know what I can do?” Willoughby said. “I can go out there and work on campaigns, like put up yard signs.” 

He has volunteered in campaigns of current elected officials like County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek, Justice Mary Kay O’Brien, and Congressman Sean Casten.

Involvement with these campaigns and engaging in dialogue with candidates at voter forums are two ways that Willoughby is preparing himself for when he can vote.

Campaign interns Sam Mungan and Mary Ghawaly. (Photo by Mariyam Syed)

Downers Grove South senior Mary Ghawaly plans to double major in political science and economics at the University of Michigan. She’s gaining experience as a campaign intern and described the duties it entails.

“It’s a lot of talking to voters, phone calls, making sure people’s voices are heard, and advocating for someone I believe is great for Congress.” she said.

Another teenage intern for Casten’s campaign, Sam Mungan, added, “Most of the time we canvass, going door to door, to make sure people actually vote and establish that personal connection.”

Ghawaly’s canvassing experience showed her it’s harder to reach college students. 

“They’re always either busy, or they feel like their vote doesn’t count,” Ghawaly said. “In reality, it does. You have a voice, might as well use it.”

Mungan followed this up with his own observation on college students.

“I don’t know exactly how much they vote, but I will say, they do it rather frequently when they’re inspired to,” he said.

They both concluded that their work on Sean Casten’s campaign has been a rewarding experience and a good way for them to get involved.

A senior from Glenbard North, Jonel Noveda, attended the Voter Expo at the encouragement of his U.S. government teacher, Ms. Bray-Parker.

Glenbard North students, Jonel Noveda, at DuPage Voter Expo. (Photo by Mariyam Syed)

“I came here to learn more about voting, who I should vote for and what beliefs other people have the same as I do,” Noveda explained.

Noveda and his classmate described how their positive interactions at the Voter Expo gave them confidence in the candidates.

The presence of young people who were fully involved and passionate about the civic process, provides a hopeful answer. Beyond working for campaigns and voting, both high school and college students can become election workers on Nov. 8 at the DuPage County website.