Politically engaged teens join campaign

By Gabrielle Kesh, Features

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They are too young to vote, but they aren’t too young to a make change. Junior Hannah Skelton and Senior Josh Kupferberg, passionate about making a difference despite their age, joined Mikie Sherrill’s campaign for Congress in the 11th district and ultimately participated in her victory.

After serving the U.S. her whole life as a former Navy pilot and federal prosecutor, Sherrill decided to make a difference in the actual government and brought high-school students along with her.

Junior Hannah Skelton’s mother heard about Sherrill and started participating in various fundraisers to support her campaign. They went to Sherrill’s office in Fairfield to learn more about her beliefs and started volunteering a couple weeks prior to the June primary. Hannah said she was especially drawn to Mikie over other Democratic candidates because of her driven nature and encouragement of teenage engagement in politics.

“Especially in West Essex, a lot of people don’t encourage political opinions from students,” Skelton said. “It was great to be able to work for someone who valued my personal ideas.”

Hannah has had political experience before working with Sherrill as she was a leader of the West Essex walkout last March where students protested gun violence and advocated for legislative reform. Sherrill could not be in attendance but sent representatives to set up a booth at the town hall so students could learn her name. Hannah said she participates in political activities, such as the gun march, with her only intention of making change and not obtaining money for her efforts.

“Some people who worked with the campaign were paid, but for me, it was personal support,” Skelton said. “It was never a way to get community service or make money, but it was a way to get my voice heard.”

Senior Josh Kupferberg joined Mikie Sherrill’s campaign as well because he said he supports many of the positions that Sherrill stands for. He also said that after enjoying his AP Government and Politics class, he felt inspired to take a stand and support a candidate he believed in. Working with Sherrill gave him the eye-opening experience to learn how a successful campaign runs.

“It was cool to know that just by talking with someone about a candidate, you can have a profound influence on their opinion,” Kupferberg said. “Many people are unaware of how the political system works, so I am also able to educate them about primary elections and other parts of the system.”

Josh’s responsibilities working with the campaign included phone banking and going door to door informing people about Sherrill and what she stands for. His tasks were the groundwork for Sherrill’s ultimate victory. He said that at times he felt like he wasn’t making a difference due to the size of his tasks in comparison to others, but he learned that vocalizing about the campaign was the best way to get people engaged.

“I do feel like I made a change despite not being able to vote,” Kupferberg said. “I feel like I was able to influence the votes of others and spread the word about all the good that Mikie Sherrill would bring to our community.”