Inspire Leader, Claire Harmon, a senior at Marshall Co. High School in Kentucky, is a Fellow with the 22x20 which is a campaign to engage the youth to have a voice in the democratic process.
This blog is an excerpt of Claire's recent interview with 22x20.
How Long Have You Been Thinking About Making Change Or Engaging Other Youth In Making Change?
I have been interested in advocacy since entering high school. My family had never been particularly invested in politics or social issues, but when I entered high school, I found a group of friends all dedicated to effecting change in our area. Through extracurricular activities and the encouragement of my friends, I found my voice and realized that there are issues I care deeply about.
Have There Been Any Particularly Important Moments That Keep You Motivated?
One experience that stands out in my mind is my first time attending Kentucky’s annual Fancy Farm picnic. At the event, politicians come from all over the state to make speeches and campaign. The Democrats sit on one side of a pavilion and the Republicans on the other, and they shout at each other and hold up handmade signs. It’s all very exciting, but the divide was disheartening. I had never seen so much passion in one place and it made me wonder what would happen if we had channeled all that energy into something positive.
Do You Have Any Stories To Share From That Experience?
While no specific moment from Fancy Farm stands out to me, I remember feeling very discouraged at the extreme divide between people. Watching people shout obscenities at each other and at the politicians on the other side of the aisle is eye-opening. It is really indicative of the hurt people in this part of the country are feeling.
What Issues Or Problems Matter To You?
On a large scale, I would like to see people treat each other with more kindness and respect. However, in a more direct sense, I’d like to decrease violence in schools and ensure that potable water, healthy food, and quality education are available to everyone, no matter their income.
What Motivates You To Be Involved In Creating Change In These Areas?
On January 23, 2018, a student opened fire in the commons area of my high school. That day, two students were killed and more than a dozen were injured. I will carry the effects of this day with me for the rest of my life, but I hope to create a positive change from it. It has given me a deep love and respect for my fellow students and shown me that a community can come together in times of tragedy to rally around its children. It has also demonstrated the great divide that people feel on issues such as gun control and weapons in school.
What Do Your Friends And Your Family Think Of Your Involvement?
My family doesn’t share all of my political beliefs for sure, but I believe they are proud of me for standing up for myself and my beliefs. My friends are endlessly supportive and I draw a lot of strength from them.
How Do You Feel That Your Work Has Made A Difference?
Sometimes I feel like my work hasn’t done anything, but then I see someone register to vote or watch large numbers of students show up for a service project and it reminds me of the reasons I originally started getting involved in activism and civic engagement.