Want your voice heard? Then register to vote, teacher tells students

Rebecca Schrotenboer, top middle, with future voters at Godwin Heights High School

For any U.S. citizen who is at least 18 and not a convicted felon, being politically active at its most basic level means one thing: voting.

Rebecca Schrotenboer, who teaches government and economics to juniors at Godwin Heights High School, makes it her mission to register students to vote as soon as they are old enough.

Related Article: Politically engaged, though not all of voting age

“I hear a lot of students in my government classes talk about what matters to them and I want them to know: in order for other people to hear that, they have to have a voice and the vote is their voice,” she said.

To that end, she created a public service announcement for the school, emailed the entire class of 2019 to encourage them to register, and regularly stops by classes with voter registration forms. Her students can always find one of those forms on her classroom bulletin board.

“I try to make sure that I get to every student that’s going to be 18,” she said.

This year’s efforts have been stymied by the fact that Godwin Heights’ senior class is very young, said Schrotenboer, with many turning 17 this year. She also sees the exclusive use of paper or in-person voter registration as a barrier to students, who’ve grown up in the digital age. (Current Michigan law does not allow for online voter registrations.)

It’s not that they can’t figure it out — it’s just that the extra steps of printing the form, filling it out, and mailing it 30 days before the election make voting less accessible, she says.

She has registered a handful of students and said she will press on throughout the year, realizing that even a couple of votes can change the outcome of a race.

“It can make or break someone being elected.”

Rebecca Schrotenboer keeps Michigan voter registration forms in her classroom
Bridie Bereza
Bridie Bereza hails from Lansing and has worked in the Grand Rapids area as a reporter, freelance writer, and communicator since graduating from Aquinas College in 2003. She feels privileged to cover West Michigan's public schools and hopes to shed a little light on the amazing things happening there through her reporting. Read Bridie's full bio.

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