Peyton Jernigan, Yorktown High School, shadowed an Inspire U.S. staff member in Virginia for her senior experience. Read what she learned as an Inspired Fellow.
How did you find out about Inspire U.S.?
This past school year, my government class dedicated a class period to Inspire U.S. and the League of Women Voters. Both organizations brought in representatives and had students help register seniors to vote and to answer some questions about voter registration. Not only were these organizations informative, they also made the process comfortable and enjoyable.
Why did you decide to pursue a fellowship with Inspire?
My high school has a program for seniors called “Senior Experience”. This program allows seniors to supplant the last three weeks of school with an internship. Senior Experience is supposed to allow students to shadow a mentor whose career is of some interest to the student in the hopes that the student will have some guidance before graduating high school. After some thought, I realized that Inspire was an organization that was of interest to me due to their dedication to the education and involvement of young people. Recently, the government has felt increasingly partisan, but Inspire felt very inclusive because it focuses on students in a purely nonpartisan way.
What have you done with Inspire?
As Inspire’s GOTV (Get Out the Vote) Fellow, I focused on contacting other students and encouraging them to educate themselves on elections and participate in their local elections. Inspire gave me the opportunity to contact my peers and get them involved in the Virginia 2018 Primary Election. This included making calls, sending out text messages, creating a presentation and planning and executing a GOTV event.
Besides the thousands of text messages I sent and hundreds of phone calls I made, I organized a phone bank pizza party. To find volunteers for this event, I reached out to previous Inspired Leaders who had volunteered with Inspire and I also contacted some friends. Once I confirmed how many people were going to participate, we organized the room and food to prepare for the phone bank. At this event, with the supervision of my mentor, Regional Manager Morgan O'Toole, I trained other Inspired Leaders and student volunteers to make phone calls to students in Virginia to remind them to vote and to answer any last minute questions about voting. Together, we were able to make over 300 calls and everyone was able to help at least one student check their registration status, find their polling location, and make a plan to vote. This was a culmination of the work I had done with Inspire because I was able to find new volunteers to help get other students involved in voting and youth participation in elections.
What has Inspire taught you and what will you take away from your experience here?
Inspire trained me to be certified in registering others to vote in Virginia. I learned data management skills and successfully trained other student-volunteers in voter registration and phone banking. Through training and some trial and error, I also learned how to use the BallotReady voter guide tool to make a voting plan and use a text messaging app to send text messages to participating students. In addition to the training and certifications, I learned about outreach and nonprofit efforts to engage youth. I learned how to speak effectively in a nonpartisan way that I would not have learned from campaign canvassing and phone-banking. The exposure to nonpartisan political involvement that Inspire has given me is something I will take with me into the future. Especially now that politics is more divided than ever, I am grateful to have had an experience in explicitly nonpartisan voter engagement and how to talk to people who have different ideas and political beliefs than myself.