Dear young people, please vote.
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Dear Young People: 

Please vote. Your future depends on it.

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For nearly two centuries, Americans have fought -- and even died -- for the right to vote, knowing that the ability to do so could change the course of their lives. 

Only 98 years ago did women finally earn the right to vote. And it wasn’t until 1965 that the Voting Rights Act prohibited blatant discriminatory tactics preventing people of color from voting.

Still a few years after that, teenagers could be sent to war but had no right to voice who represented them. It took the action of young people during the Vietnam War to transmit the message of “old enough to fight, old enough to vote,” that finally lowered the federal voting age from 21 to 18 in 1971 and gave voice to a younger generation.

Voting allows you, our young people, to see what your future could be. It is an opportunity to raise your voice, elect candidates who represent your values, and become active members of our democratic system.

Instead, in the last midterm election, only 17 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 24 cast their ballots. And this year, despite increased energy and heightened political rhetoric, still only 28 percent of those of you young adults ages 18 to 29 said you are “absolutely certain” you’ll vote in November’s midterm elections.

How is it that you, the very voters who have the most to gain from our elections, are also the least likely to make your voices heard?

As the head of one of the largest youth services organizations in New York City that fights for the rights of 30,000 young people and their families, I see every day how policies set forth by our elected leaders directly impact your lives. From health care to higher education, employment to affordable housing – it is young people who feel both the immediate brunt and long-term impacts of decisions made by elected officials.

That is why I am making an urgent plea to all young people: vote on Nov. 6 and make your voices heard. The course of your life depends on it. Many of your future decisions will have political implications. You need to be informed about who your candidates are and how they will fight for what you need. 

Imagine this, as student loan debt continues to balloon across the country surpassing $1 trillion in outstanding federal loans, it is becoming increasingly difficult for those your age to find affordable housing in major urban centers where many of the highest paying jobs are. Instead, many of your fellow young Americans are forced to settle for subpar housing standards, which are often linked to poor health outcomes such as asthma, allergies, lead exposure, and increased potential for accidents and injuries.

But, luckily, if you are a young person today, learning more about each candidate has never been easier. You can quickly and efficiently learn who will fight for more affordable housing, increase job opportunities for people with all levels of education, or stand up for the issues you care about most.

Planning to vote is an easy process (and you can find the information right on your cell phone): first, make sure you’re registered, next learn about your candidates and their stances on issues important to you, and finally make sure you know where your polling place is. It’s that simple.

The final step is to head to your polling place and cast your ballot on Nov. 6 to make sure your voice is heard.

Like all others before it, this election presents an opportunity to prove pundits wrong and to show up in droves at the polls.

I’ve seen first-hand that your generation of young eligible voters is on track to be the most diverse, well educated,connected, and informed generation of our time. By becoming reliable voters, you will help mold the future – bucking the status quo, electing leaders that will fight for you, and actively creating positive change.

I’ve seen what happens when a group of energized young adults set their mind to something. I saw it during the civil rights era; I saw it during Vietnam; I see it every day in classrooms and community centers; and this November, it is my prayer to see it across America as every single one of you heads to the polls and votes.

Sister Paulette LoMonaco is Executive Director of Good Shepherd Services, a youth services organization.