By Michelle Cassell
CHAPEL HILL — Elise Chang, a 16-year-old mover and shaker at Chapel Hill High School, is the North Carolina lead of a youth-led voter education organization called MyVote Project.
She is seeking student volunteers to grow the national voter education organization.
“Often people are not informed about political candidates and end up voting solely based on the party the candidate represents,” Chang said. MyVote aims to give people quick access to nonpartisan information about a candidate’s policies so they can arrive at the polls informed and sure of their decision.”.
MyVote’s goal is to inform, not influence. It is nonpartisan. Chang is seeking student volunteers to grow the national voter education organization.
“A voter can spend a few minutes researching on myvoteproject.com and decide which candidate’s policies best align with their beliefs,” Chang explained. MyVote covers various policy issues, from healthcare to economics, the environment, and international affairs.
Student volunteers will gain experience and training in fundraising and contacting potential donors. They can choose to work on candidate and policy research, handle press and social media communications or work to keep volunteers engaged. Some get opportunities to reach out to voters in their communities and online.
“Volunteers are part of national teams and on a state team that collaborates to ensure MyVote is working,” Chang said. Any high school or college student interested in volunteering can fill out an interest form here.
Chang is preparing to host candidate forums for the 2024 elections in her new North Carolina state lead position. She keeps volunteers engaged by checking in with texts, calls and monthly meetings. Another aspect of her duties is to coordinate all state-level events. With COVID-19 restrictions lifted, she seeks more student volunteers since in-person Chapel Hill work is expanding.
Students who sign up to volunteer now will also get the opportunity to apply for a summer internship program. The internship program is a summer opportunity for students to gain experiences in their field of interest, such as candidate research, digital outreach, and phone banking, to contact potential donors. The deadline for internship application is May 1.
Volunteers put in at least 1.5 hours each week. During the school year, they meet primarily through Zoom. Local meet-ups are more frequent during the summer for team building with other members of the North Carolina team.
“MyVote Project volunteers are essential because they know their communities better than someone who does not live there and know what issues matter most to their area,” Chang said..
She said the organization has changed her life and given her the opportunity to work with teens from Manhattan to Houston and from Chapel Hill to Lancaster.She started as a volunteer in 2020 at age 14 and is now the North Carolina state lead for MVP.
“MyVote is a wonderful organization to gain collaborative experience, learn various skills, network and become more confident in public speaking and leadership skills. I am incredibly proud of MyVote’s mission and grateful to be a part of it,” Chang said..
Chapel Hill High School Principal Charles Blanchard is proud of the students involved in MVP.
“We are blessed to have such great students to lead this totally student run organization with the goal to have their peers and others make informed electoral decisions,” Blanchard told The Local Reporter.
MVP aims to ensure that all voters are given comprehensive and well-researched information on each candidate and the tools to make an informed decision. “Even a quick 10-20 minute glance at a candidate’s policies can make all the difference,” says Chang.
“Elise Chang has been doing great work in North Carolina. I know she will be helping the state to participate with MVP in many ways,” MVP co-founder Sari Kaufman said.
MVP was in February 2020 by2018 Parkland shooting survivor and March for Our Lives organizer Sari Kaufman, community organizer Gita Stulberg and Duke professor David McAdams.
Kaufman, a junior at Yale University, said she was stunned by the lack of information voters had while leading a March for Our Lives campaign to collect more than 1,000 voter registrations in one day.
“After the shooting, I saw the importance of local government on local policy,” Kaufman told TLR. “I also saw people’s lack of voter education and knowledge on the local level when they voted on ballot races.”
MVP is moving away from virtual events and is focusing on promoting in-person events such as policy discussion forums before elections. They offer year-round opportunities for involvement.
“Having students meet with adults in their community, putting up posters in coffee shops and schools, or getting involved in Facebook groups that parents read gets attention,” Kaifman said.
The end-goal of the MVP model is to get high school and college students interested in the political process.
Michelle Cassell is a seasoned reporter who has covered everything from crime to hurricanes and local politics to human interest over the course of 35 years. As assignment editor, she hopes to encourage writers of a wide range of backgrounds and interests in TLR’s coverage of Southern Orange County news.