Teen starts independent youth political group

Students start citywide political group amidst pandemic

Mia Staczuck ‘22 started Youth 4 Politics Now in April, an organization that aims to get more Chicago area high schoolers involved in politics.

“The overall goal is to redefine politics for young people so it’s more accessible for them and it’s easier to get involved,” said Staszcuk. “I’ve always been really interested in politics, advocacy and volunteering and looking at the human side of politics–not the corrupt or partisan part.”

Staszcuk said she wanted to form a political group for high school students for a long time and started Youth 4 Politics Now when she found free time during the quarantine.

Staczuck said she wanted high school students involved in the upcoming presidential election since not everyone can vote. Due to launching the group amidst the pandemic, they  meet over zoom and a few in-person events as well (with all attendees wearing masks at all times), while spreading word of the group through social media..

The organization said they are currently advocating four initiatives: environmental reform, education reform, safety and equity, and diversity in the political system. 

Under those initiatives, Youth 4 Politics Now has had in-person events, including a park cleanup. Also, the group put up signs in Bridgeport and interviewed residents in an effort to educate about the Black Lives Matter movement.  They have also organized a pen pal program to help support the U.S. Postal Service. 

Staszcuk had the idea of Youth 4 Politics Now a while ago and always wanted to start a group to get teens involved with politics. While the goal of Youth 4 Politics Now was to increase the number of high schoolers in politics and volunteering in different communities, another focus is to create a social group where members can hang out and meet people who share similar interests. Staszcuk thinks that it’s a great way to meet new people across Chicago.

Shirley “Yamali” Rodas ‘23, joined Youth 4 Politics Now and has participated in several of their events, including an event that helped educate people on the BLM movement in the Bridgeport neighborhood.“We did receive a lot of backlash including people who ripped up the stuff we had hung up. But it made sense because it was a pro-police area,” Yamali said. “I just want to help our people get a better life in the future and Youth 4 Politics Now is the beginning of other things I can do.”

Youth 4 Politics Now said their group is very diverse, attracting people from many places in the Chicago area and people who identify with many different minorities. “I don’t have exact percentages based on the people who I contact online as I don’t know their race, but it is mostly Hispanic and white as the majority and followed by black and Asian,” Staczuk said. “It is important that when we’re advocating for specific issues that impact minorities, that we have voices from them so we’re not speaking for them and generalizing things,” Staszcuk said. 

Youth 4 Politics Now said they are doing their part to make sure everyone who is able to vote has a chance to and knows about the different candidates. They claim to educate young people on policy and candidates and help new voters get registered. “I feel that at the moment, we, meaning people of color, don’t have enough voices in the government and when we do, it’s not an accurate representation of all of us,” said Rodas. “I think the government should have more women, younger people, and BIPOC.”

Youth 4 Politics Now is also working with another group, the Jones Young Democrats Club. Harry Atkinson ‘22, is the leader of Young Democrats Club and also a member of Youth 4 Politics Now. 

“We are trying to connect the bases of Youth 4 politics Now and the Jones Young Democrat club and it’s raised attendance for both clubs, especially Young Democrats,” said Atkinson. “A lot of people in my club joined through Youth 4 Politics Now.”

While the group doesn’t identify with a specific political party, they do lean liberal when it comes to social issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, healthcare, and social services. Even though many group members said they are liberal, they do have a fair share of conservatives.

While political parties may be important for some groups, for Youth 4 Politics Now, it’s about doing things to help people and social justice. “We don’t really talk about anything political, I think the things we are doing is human decency,” Staszcuk said. While Youth 4 Politics Now may work with the Jones Young Democrats Club, “It’s not about either party, it’s for young voices,” Atkinson said. 

Getting more high schoolers involved in politics and doing social justice was always the goal for Youth 4 Politics Now, not political affiliation. 

 “My personal hope for the future of Youth 4 Politics Now is that we can inspire teenagers to get more involved in politics and normalize teens having a say in the policy made that impacts them,” said Staszcuk.

Regardless of who wins the presidential election, Youth 4 Politics said they will continue to stay active in local politics and try to improve youth political involvement. They said they are going to continue to hold events that work towards environmental reform, education reform, safety, equity, diversity, and fresh perspective in politics. 

“Just giving teenagers the opportunity to express themselves and their ideas in an encouraging environment that can help them achieve what they think would truly improve society,” said Staszcuk.