PHILADELPHIA – Yesterday at City Hall, Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At-Large) hosted her second annual youth registration event for over 200 high school students. In a marked departure from the normally staid tenor of municipal government, the sounds of music and dancing floated up from the courtyard of City Hall, where young people from nine Philadelphia public high schools celebrated an important civic milestone: registering to vote.
In the most recent election, turnout among Philadelphia voters aged 18-34 was under 15%, the lowest of all age groups. With this event, Councilmember Brooks, along with over ten local partner organizations including PA Youth Vote and Mural Arts Philadelphia, sought to increase civic engagement among young people in Philadelphia. To the sounds of music by DJ Diamond Kuts, young people registered to vote, applied to become poll workers, toured City Hall, and practiced casting ballots on a real voting machine.
“It’s especially important to me that we have so many students from King,” said Councilmember Kendra Brooks of visiting students from her alma mater, Martin Luther King Jr High School. “When I graduated from King, I had no idea that I would become a City Councilmember. No one ever told me that was a possibility for me.”
Addressing the assembled students, Councilmember Brooks continued, “this is my chance to tell you what no one ever told me. This enormous building, with all its hallways and offices, belongs to all of us. This government, with all its people and moving pieces, is here to work for you. This space is not just for people with money and business suits. This space is for you.”
By the end of the event, over 35 eligible young people had registered to vote, with many younger students committing to register as soon as they are old enough.
“Right here in Philadelphia we saw the founding of our democracy,” said Tony B. Watlington, Sr., Ed.D., Superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia. “Voting is an essential way to make your voice heard both at the city, state, and even federal level. I am thankful to the partners who are engaging our students in voting and civic participation.”
“It is my mission to encourage the youth of our City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection to be civically engaged and to let them know that their participation in the democratic process matters,” said Commissioner Omar Sabir.
“It’s great to see how community organizations, elected officials, and the school district are joining in the effort to empower the young students of Philadelphia to find their voice through the power of their vote,” said Kamryn Davis, Lead Organizer with PA Youth Vote. “I’m especially proud of every student who took that initial step yesterday to ensure their seat at the table and a say in this city’s government by registering to vote.”