Civics For Change: Running For Office

We all have ideas of how we can change the world, from community projects to large-scale campaigns. We also have witnessed times when elected officials do not represent the diverse ideas, interests, and demographics of young people. The problems presented by a government run by a majority of older people, or a gerontocracy, are increasingly stifling progress. Young people want to be involved in the democratic process. In order for young people to shape a just, inclusive democracy, we need to be in the room where it happens! We know we have the power to effect change, but taking the steps to run for office is challenged by a lack of information, support, and explicit opportunities to do so. Let’s look at some examples of young people who have run for office, how they are uniquely equipped to address today’s pressing issues, and how you can add your name to the ballot!

During the 2022 Midterm Elections, Maxwell Frost became Congress’ youngest member, and Gen-Z’s first elected official on Capitol Hill when he won his race for Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Frost’s victory was a pivotal moment for the representation of young people and showcased the power our generation holds. Frost’s campaign focused on addressing many of the issues young people care about most: the climate crisis, gun violence, police brutality, Medicare for all, and inequities in housing and transit. 

Young people face these issues in ways other generations do not. We see how the environment has been damaged by those who came before us. We grieve the loss of our siblings, classmates, and friends to police brutality and mass shootings year after year. It can feel overwhelming to directly address these issues, with many young people unsure of where to begin. One way young people look to impact change is at the polls, campaigning and voting for candidates who represent our best interests. Now that we are of age to run, we are inspired to be the candidates directly representing and advocating for our interests. 

While the issues may be daunting, there is no shortage of passion among young people to address them. Big changes are often the result of many small actions taken by members of a community sustained over time. Two young congressmen in the Tennessee House of Representatives, Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, embody the movement of garnering legislative influence for young people to directly address what needs to be changed. Following a mass shooting in Nashville that took six lives, including three 9-year-old children, Pearson and Jones led a gun control protest that resulted in the House voting to expel them. Now reinstated, the congressmen live the legacy left by changemakers like Rep. John Lewis, who led sit-ins to desegregate Nashville businesses, among many other advancements for those he represented and beyond throughout a long career of activism and advocacy, which he began as a young changemaker.

Like many young people, Frost, Pearson, and Jones are examples of leaders who felt a call to action while observing our nation’s recent history and its parallels to the calls to participate in movements of the past. Witnessing the climate crisis worsen, the wars on terror and drugs, gut-wrenching mass shootings and cases of police brutality, a loss of our reproductive freedom, and attacks on the existence of our LGBTQIA+ friends and family, it’s nearly impossible not to care. Young people are turning that care into action, especially at the ballot box. In the 2022 Midterm Elections, Gen-Z and Millennials voted in record numbers. Looking ahead, in 2024, we will account for over 40% of eligible voters

Young people: Our presence in public office is needed. The government needs our fresh perspectives and creative solutions to problems we uniquely understand. We need people legislating who grew up in the digital age and understand the impact of ever-changing technology. We need proper representation and advocates who will urgently address issues that will impact us most, like the climate crisis and economic equality. The future’s here – we are it, and it’s up to us to build the future we all want to be a part of. 

Run For Something, an Andrew Goodman Foundation partner organization, focuses on eliminating the common barriers young people face in running for office. They provide community support, mentorship, resources, training, and a network of fellow young people running for office. If you or a young person you know has any interest in running for office, be sure to send them to their site to get the process started! As The Andrew Goodman Foundation continues organizing ahead of local elections this year and preparing for the 2024 Presidential Election, we remain committed to cultivating the leadership skills of our Andrew Goodman Ambassadors to be part of the youth voice shaping a just, sustainable democracy.


Mia Matthews is the Program and Communications Manager at The Andrew Goodman Foundation. In her position, she works with student leaders and in communications and storytelling surrounding their work. She currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts.