Megan King ’19 & Milla Wu ’19
On Mon. Nov. 5, Conejo Together, an organization dedicated to electing Jenny Fitzgerald, Bill Gorback and Cindy Goldberg for school board, hosted an event open to students to teach about canvassing and to organize student canvassers for Fitzgerald, Gorback and Goldberg.
Indivisible Conejo education team leader Lauren Gill explained that the purpose of the event was “to capitalize on all of the activism that the student leaders have done before now.” She explained that the adults are simply trying to support student leaders in whatever way possible.
“Student leaders have been registering each other, pre-registering each other [and] talking with each other about the importance of the election — not just the school board, but of course that’s our first priority, but in general what’s happening in the country,” said Gill. “We grownups just want to be supportive and provide any forum and opportunity [to them.]”
More than 30 students came to Conejo Together’s headquarters at the Oaks Mall on Monday.
“I’m here because so many [students] are here,” said Gorback. “The fact that you folks have been so passionate and the fact that … you’re working so hard, and we’re working to make[a] much closer connection between the school board and the students that we serve, that’s the exact answer [to why I’m here]. We serve you.”
While Conejo Together encouraged attending students to form groups and canvass certain areas in TO, the event also focused on providing students an opportunity to become involved in local politics.
“Even students who are not yet old enough to vote can make their voices heard by talking with others in our community about their concerns and volunteering time on a campaign for a candidate that they believe will do a good job representing them/for a cause that is important to them,” said Fitzgerald in a statement to The Arrow.
In addition to Gorback and Fitzgerald (Goldberg was unable to attend), incumbent state assembly candidate Jacqui Irwin, incumbent House representative candidate Julia Brownley and California Senator Henry Stern all attended the event in support of Conejo Together as well as in support of students involved in politics.
“The reason I’m here is because I think it is so incredibly important for young people to be involved with politics,” said Irwin to The Arrow. “To be able to be here like this, [with a] huge group of high school seniors, most of who can’t even vote, it’s very exciting, … and it gives me hope that in the future, a lot more young people will be going to vote.”
Events like this allow students to see how politics and government are in real life, as opposed to merely learning about it in government classes.
“I’m a civics teacher, and this is the best civics lesson you got, is an election. Civics isn’t an academic exercise,” said Stern. “When you take government class, [it’s like] ‘Theoretically, you know, this is how the government works!’ Like no, it’s right now, it’s here.”
Stern argues that students aren’t empowered right now in politics and wants to change that, which is why he attends events such as this one.
“The system’s not designed to empower students — it’s actually designed to make you feel like you don’t have power,” said Stern. “So I want to change that … I think there’s been a lot of disempowerment of students in this school district, and I don’t like that. I didn’t like it at my high school too, because I faced it when I was in high school, and I got mad at my administration. So … I’m just repeating history.”
Younger students have increased in participation during recent election cycles. According to Stern, who also acts a chair of the election committee, there have been two hundred thousand 16-17 year olds in California that pre-registered to vote,
“The numbers that I was looking at for the absentee ballots are that we’re up probably five or six percent among young people, not in the area that we still need to be, but what really encourages me is the amount of activism,” said Irwin. “ I think that’s the first step, you first need the enthusiasm from the activism.”
Fitzgerald has been impressed with the passion and activism of students during this election.
“My favorite part about Conejo Together events is that they bring together people of all different backgrounds from across our community who want to work towards positive change for our students and schools,” said Fitzgerald. “I have met incredibly kind, giving and passionate individuals through Conejo Together and I love the energy you can feel at CT events. I also love all of the kids and young adults present at and included in CT events.”
One of the main focuses of the event was increasing political participation in the younger demographic.
“I think [students] are every bit as capable of having an opinion about what your curriculum should look like, what the flow of your classes should look like [and] what your campus is like,” said Stern. “I’m betting on this generation.”
** Fitzgerald, Gorback and Goldberg won the election for school board on Nov. 6; Brownley and Irwin were both re-elected**