Don't have to be able to vote to Raise Your Voice!

Check out this awesome story from Chapel Hill, North Carolina teen, Eliza Oldac. Sounds like she's found her voice! Read on...

Hey there green teens!

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be able to attend North Carolina’s Powershift Summit. While there, I met some really inspiring people, talked to other teens that also cared about saving the Earth, and went to interesting workshops about sustainability and ecofriendliness. I also got to badger multiple people for signatures for The Declaration of Independence from Fossil Fuels. But that story starts before Powershift….

Earlier in the week, Rouwenna Lamm, a presenter for ACE (Alliance for Climate Education) came to my high school to show us a short, multimedia movie about what we can do to stop global warming. She also told us about The Declaration of Independence from Fossil Fuels, and I eagerly volunteered to help collect 350 signatures from North Carolina’s youth to deliver to Kay Hagan, our senator, on the 350 Day of Action. We really wanted Kay Hagan to know that we, the young people in North Carolina, know that global warming is a problem, and we want legislation to cut down the use of fossil fuels and slow global warming. I began collecting signatures around the school, and, that weekend, at Powershift. I enlisted the help of friends and teachers (thank you, Allison and Ms. Callahan!!) to gather signatures- after all, we had 350 to get in just 2 weeks!

After days and days of frantically soliciting signatures from people in my school and community, it was time to deliver the petition to Kay Hagan. The leader of my school’s environmental group, Kristen, and I got a ride to Raleigh, and made it to Kay Hagan’s office- after a few wrong turns and about 45 minutes of wandering around on foot. We went through security, and walked nervously into her office. Not surprisingly, the senator herself was not available to talk to, but we did get to speak with one of her top assistants, who took the petition and then…left. It was a bit anticlimactic. Still, Kristen and I felt really successful when we left Raleigh- we’d spread the word about global warming to youth in our community and raised our voices to our government! Though we only got 346 signatures, the entire experience was a success in my eyes.

This was my first time gathering signatures for a petition and then delivering the petition to my representative, and I certainly learned a lot from it. One lesson I’ll never forget is that there are obstacles in every big undertaking. These setbacks actually made the experience richer for me, because, not only was I left with the success of making nonvoter’s voices heard, I knew that I did it despite high-schoolers that didn’t want to wake up on Saturday morning to drive to the state capital or smart-alecks that signed “Mexicrasian” on the petition (in ink!) rather than just declining to sign.

I also learned that it’s a lot easier to approach people and ask for their signature than it may seem. As long as you fully believe in your cause, you can convince most people to listen to you and consider signing, and, in the end, the entire experience is very rewarding.

And the best part? I realized that you don’t have to be able to vote to raise your voice to the government. As teens, we can make our voices heard and get involved in other ways that are just as important. We can make a difference! Let’s join together and show our country what we really care about.

Eliza Oldach

(PS: If you’re interested in raising your voice on this issue, be sure to add your name to the Youth Declaration of Independence from Fossil Fuels on the ACE website, acespace.org.)

Rouwenna Lamm

Rouwenna Lamm is ACE’s National Program Director. She was a founding member of ACE’s New England team in 2009. She’s educated 67,000 students, trained 1,000 youth leaders, and built numerous ACE regional staff teams. Today, Rouwenna directs ACE’s regional programs and is focused on maximizing the collective impact of ACE’s programs. She loves playing outside and relaxing with friends.