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Some Groups Hope to Keep Young Voters Active

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By Maya Rhodan, NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Now that the elections are over, some youth leaders are hoping to keep their peers actively involved in civic affairs.

“Young folks are going to continue to drive the future and the direction of this country after the election,” said Sammie Dow, the National Youth and College Divisions Director of the NAACP. “Post-election is either going to come with folks who are angry about what happened in the election and are ready to organize or people who are really excited about what happened are ready to mobilize.”

By all accounts, that will not be an easy task.

“There are a lot of people on campus who were saying how they can’t wait for the election to end,” said Megan Sims, a sophomore at Howard University.

In the past three presidential elections, young voters ages 18-29 have proven pivotal in the election of national leaders. However, their engagement extends only slightly beyond their willingness to show up at the polls.

According to a 2010 survey of “millennials” by the Pew Research Center, younger voters are almost equally as likely to vote in every election, sign petitions, and contact elected officials regularly, as those in older age groups.

Sims, who voted for the first time this election, plans to stay actively engaged in politics beyond the Presidential race.

“I try to always stay on top of what’s going on in politics. You have to be aware of what’s going on,” she said. “ I want to be involved in reclaiming our legacy as Black people so we can do for ourselves and better ourselves to make a better community.”

Youth chapters of the NAACP across the country are going to address issues such as education, employment, imprisonment throughout the year in hopes of keeping young people engaged, Dow said.

While the overall unemployment rate was 7.9 percent in October, among African Americans ages 18-29, the rate was 21.4 percent, nearly three times the national rate, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

For those who have jobs, issues like how much money they’ll be able to save for retirement have led to additional worry, according to Brandi Richard, the president of National Urban League Young Professionals.

“The changes in the amount of money that we make because of the recession will impact how much we make over out lifetimes and how much we’ll be able to put back,” says Richard. “The issues that have been raised are so important you can’t not continue to discuss them.

This year the National Urban League Young Professionals plan to pinpoint the issues most affecting their community to create an agenda they can take to elected officials.

The agenda is set to include issues on retirement options, jobs in the public and private sector, and education.

Sims worries that a second Obama term may have a down side. She explained. “I feel like students will still be involved, but there will be a lot of students that say ‘I got him back into office, I did my part.’”

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