For Immediate Release: June 6, 2021
Rachel Gurevich, Chair, New Jersey High School Democrats (email: email@example.com phone: +1 (732) 979-8428
William Atkins, Chair, New Jersey High School Republicans (email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone: +1 (908) 200-5521)
Matthew Skolar, Chair, Young Ecosocialists – New Jersey (email: email@example.com phone: +1 (908) 666-3857)
The New Jersey High School Democrats, the New Jersey High School Republicans, and the Young Ecosocialists of the Green Party of New Jersey are excited to announce a collaborative, multi-partisan effort by student activists to support Assembly Bill A5666, introduced in the Legislature by Assemblyman Sterley S. Stanley on May 12th.
The coalition follows the lead of young activists in the Commonwealth of Virginia who pushed for similar legislation signed by Governor Ralph Northam into law in March.
The bill, if passed, would allow public school students from grades six through twelve to take one excused absence per academic year and allocate it to participation in a civic activity. The coalition asserts that the bill would serve to encourage political participation amongst youth, support the presence and inclusion of youth in political and civic settings, and create more active and motivated young leaders and voters to help solve the issues of both today and tomorrow.
In recent years, youth have become especially vocal on issues ranging from gun laws, climate change, minimum wage, personal liberties, foreign policy, reforms to democracy and more.
The Chair of the New Jersey High School Democrats, Rachel Gurevich, who is a student activist from East Brunswick and volunteers with Assemblyman Stanley explains, “having been involved in political activism since age fourteen, it has been difficult to balance school and civic engagement. This bill will encourage students to partake in government- even before they can vote.”
“The bill would allow youth aligning with the ideals of the Democratic party to participate in demonstrations, civic events, voting, and activism — much of which will affect those same youth. Young Democrats in New Jersey will no longer need to worry about the impediment of a school absence before fighting for climate action, gun reform, and other real-world problems.”
William Atkins, Chair of the New Jersey High School Republicans, a sophomore from Bridgewater who has been involved in many statewide and congressional Republican campaigns, says, “with ever increasing youth activism regarding national and state politics, this bill would give students the opportunity to safely express themselves and their opinions with room for healthy discussion. Civic engagement is what we need in this time of social distress.”
When asked about why Republicans should support the bill, Atkins said, “An opportunity for civic engagement would provide a refreshing occasion for conservative students to align with fellow Republicans who are often difficult to identify in a setting such as the classroom. Such an opportunity would allow young conservatives to stand together and have their voices heard on issues such as education, abortion, and law and order.”
“This bill is something that supersedes party lines and ideological differences,” says Matthew Skolar, a student activist from Kearny and chair of the Young Ecosocialists of the Green Party of New Jersey. “Our government has an obligation at all levels to provide ample room for youth to get involved in civic engagement because it is our future to inherit. Either young people will be encouraged to be involved in the political process now, or our youth will have to wait until it is too late or extremely complicated to solve many of the critical issues facing New Jersey youth today.”
Skolar, who is currently a rising sophomore at Davidson College, outreach coordinator for Madelyn Hoffman’s Gubernatorial run, and delegate on the Green Party National Committee, expressed that he regrets that he didn’t have the opportunity to receive an excused absence for participating in civic action in high school, because it would have allowed him more sway in encouraging his peers to become more involved. Additionally, he explained that part of the reason many young people have left politics altogether, or have left the conventional framework of politics within the two main parties, is because of their lack of support for youth activists.
The bill currently sits in the Assembly Education Committee where it will be deliberated. Assemblyman Sterley S. Stanley, who recently won a special election to represent the 18th legislative district, is the primary bill sponsor. He said “It is incredibly important for young people and students to be engaged in government and civic events as they are our future leaders.” He continued, “the coalition understands the importance of their presence, their voice, and participation in the political process and this bill allows them an opportunity to be vocal and involved. It has always been important to me to foster this level of engagement.”
To learn more about the New Jersey High School Republicans, the New Jersey High School Democrats, or the Young Ecoscocialists of the Green Party of New Jersey, visit their respective websites or follow them on Instagram: @njhsreps @njhsdems @young.ecosocialists.nj.