June 26, 2019
Students making a difference through Up to Us.

Did you know that more than half of millennials consider themselves activists? Education, wages, health care and the economy are among the top issues millennials care about, Young adults are changing what activism looks like. Seventy percent of them believe they can create change, and as a whole, millennials want to address important issues while avoiding conflicts.

What does activism look like in 2019? How can you make a difference? Let's take a closer look at the different ways to get your voice heard.

Contacting legislators

Staff members typically handle the calls, emails and letters that a legislator receives. However, a large volume of calls on a specific issue will draw attention to it.

Washington offices get a lot of calls and emails. It might be easier to draw attention to an issue you care about if you contact a local office instead. There are situations where it's best to contact the Washington office of a legislator (for example, if an important vote is coming up).

Ask if you can talk to the aide who is in charge of the issue you are concerned about. Tell them you are a constituent and prepare a short and fact-based statement to effectively communicate your message.

Helpful resources:

Voting

If you are at least 18 years old by Election Day, you can register to vote. Fill out the National Mail Voter Registration Form. You can also use this form to update your information if you have a new address. There are specific instructions you will have to follow to fill out and mail the form depending on the state you live in.

Students exercising their right to vote at a voting location.

Visit Vote411.org to find information about local polling places. You will find information about dates, ID requirements for your state, registration and eligibility. Vote411 also shares information about candidates and ballot measures ahead of elections.

There are options to explore if you can't go to a polling place on Election Day. Thirty-five states offer some type of early voting, and Colorado, Oregon and Washington have adopted an all-mail voting system. Other options include absentee voting, voting by mail, voting by proxy or voting at a different polling station.

If you want to make a difference, look into volunteering with a local voter registration drive or contact polling stations to find out if they have volunteer positions.

Volunteering for a candidate

If you are interested in getting involved in local politics, volunteering with a candidate's office is a great way to make a difference. Attend events or contact a local office directly to ask about volunteer positions.
Volunteers handle a wide range of tasks, including administrative work, contacting voters and helping out at events.

Demonstrations and protests

Attending a march or protest is another common form of activism. There are a few things to keep in mind if you are thinking about attending a protest.

It's legal to protest on public space, but crossing onto a private property isn't. Be ready to comply with instructions from police and organizers to keep the protest safe and productive.

You should research local laws ahead of a protest to better understand your rights. You should also research the event and the organizations behind it. Make sure they have a history of safe and non-violent protests.
Prepare a sign. Think about your message carefully and create a sign that gets your point across.

There are a few safety tips to keep in mind when attending a protest:

  • Tell a friend or family member where you are going.
  • Have a plan to leave the area and transportation to get home.
  • Write an emergency contact number on your body.
  • Go with friends, or find a group of people you can stay with during the event.

Talk to friends or event organizers who have experience with protests to get a better idea of what to expect and how to prepare.

Other forms of activism

Social media

Students posing with an Instagram cut-out.

Social media has become a central platform for drawing attention to issues and sparking debates. Sharing stories and discussing issues can be productive, but we recommend stepping away from negative interactions.

Social media is also a great way to reach out to candidates or representatives. You can hold them accountable and remind them of the issues their constituents care about.

Ethical consumption

As a consumer, you can make a difference by researching the brands and businesses you use. Find out about the causes they support and how their products are made. You can choose to support ethical products, shop at local businesses or avoid the brands who have values you don't agree with.

Volunteering with non-profits

Volunteering with a non-profit organization is another option to explore. We already talked about volunteering to help with registering voters or supporting a local candidate, but there are many other causes to explore.

Volunteering will help you gain experience while working on something that you care about. Look for opportunities based on your skills and interests. Start with a few hours to get a better idea of what volunteering is like.

Here are a few ideas to explore:

  • Red Cross locations offer different programs, including blood drives and home fire relief programs. Volunteers typically have access to training and certification opportunities.
  • If you have an interest in culture and education, volunteer with a local library or museum.
  • Helping out as a tutor at a local school is another meaningful way to volunteer.
  • You can make a difference for your community by volunteering at a food pantry or with a non-profit like Habitat for Humanity.
  • If you care about the environment, look for local non-profit organizations that clean up parks and rivers.
  • Hospitals and retirement homes sometimes offer volunteer opportunities.

It's Up to Us offers many exciting opportunities to get involved and make a difference in a non-partisan way. We organize contests and give you the tools you need to create events on your campus to draw attention to issues that will impact our future, like fiscal and economic policies.