‘One person can change so much for so many’

Meet the Future: Raenah Lindsey

Raenah Lindsey visited Washington D.C. last year, and stopped by 600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Name: Raenah Lindsey
School: East Grand Rapids High
Jam: Politics

Raenah Lindsey is headed to Harvard, then on to a law career and maybe politics, then perhaps teaching

How old were you when this became something you wanted to pursue, and what’s the story there? “I remember in first grade when Barack Obama had just won (the U.S. presidency) and my teacher said ‘Now that they’re moving into the White House all their favorite food is there.’ And I was like ‘Wow, the president gets all this free, great food.’ Which is not true, of course, because they have to pay for it, but I just think it’s funny that’s probably the first ‘spark moment.’

“Of course now I know the purpose involved, what it means to serve others, and in a really large capacity.”

Raenah credits now-retired Mason Middle School teacher Scott Shattucks’ history class in eighth grade as being “very transformative for me,” and said several EGRPS teachers have fostered her interest. At EGR: “So many teachers, in so many disciplines.”

A few related accomplishments:

  • Raenah is one of two Michigan students selected this year for the U.S. Senate Youth Program. Before concerns about the spread of the coronavirus canceled the event, she was to join Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters in representing Michigan for the 58th annual USSYP Washington Week in March and receive a $10,000 college scholarship. The scholarship is still on. Attendees also were to meet other lawmakers, President Donald Trump and a member of the Supreme Court. 
  • Member, junior year, and student coach this year, of EGR High’s We the People team. It’s a course and competitive program focused on the U.S. Constitution and its application. “That’s probably had one of the biggest impacts (on) my entire high school career as far as showing me what I love and really want to do. It’s really cool to see how everyone comes out of it passionate about what we do and about one another. It has taught how important it is to be civically engaged.”
  • Youth in Government; Rotary Club; student representative on the EGR Schools Foundation; board member, Michigan High School Democrats.
  • Participant, Yale University Young Global Scholars summer program, 2018 
  • Volunteer, State Rep. Winnie Brinks’ Senate campaign and Hilary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential campaign. On what it’s like to canvass, going door-to-door to spread a candidate’s message: “It’s kind of scary, not a lot of people answer their doors, but we know it matters. It has helped me grow and be able to communicate with others.” Her plans for the next Presidential election: “I’ll definitely be involved.” She turns 18 in July, so she will vote for the first time in the general election in November.
  • Panelist, West Michigan Talent Triangle’s “Policy Collaborative: Educators and Legislators Coming Together” event.

Do you plan to pursue this professionally? Raenah plans to get a law degree from Harvard University, where she will start in the fall. 

“My launching pad will be a legal career. I don’t know what type of law I would go into yet, but then some sort of service related work. … It just feels right for me to go into politics. I think a lot of my skills fit it, too; I really like social studies, reading, and understanding changes throughout time, people and places. As cliche as it sounds, I think the American experience is really unique, and I think everyone is able to contribute to that story.

Raenah Lindsey outside the state capitol building in Lansing with fellow We The People members in 2019

“And I think later on I’d like to be a professor too, because I just love to learn.”

The biggest lesson you have learned from your involvement in this is… “There’s so much reward in serving larger interests. Because I love history I’ve seen how one person and their resolve to contribute, to serve, to make a difference, can change so much for so many people. Because I feel like I can contribute through government, I think that’s the best way I can help so many people.”

Do you see your peers as being politically engaged? “From what I’ve seen, I think kids are more engaged than adults say they are. We had a voter drive earlier in the year and I’m pretty sure every senior who was eligible to vote did. I thought that was huge, because they understand their vote has meaning. That was really powerful to see.”

How about adults? The question was barely out and Raenah delivered a hard “no.” “Maybe it’s lack of civic education; that could be better with any generation. But I just look at the political climate today and some of the rationale (for their beliefs), to me, doesn’t make any sense. I feel like so many people aren’t willing to hear other people. I think my generation understands that’s a big problem that they might like the economics of something or how it suits them, but not consider the nation as a whole.

“Obviously your own interests are important, but to me it’s more important how it affects everyone.”
Why does this matter so much to you? “I think people need to recognize there’s something greater than themselves at stake.”

Raenah Lindsey, front row second from left, with lawmakers in Washington D.C. in 2019, including Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, center

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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