“I’ve always wanted to vote and help pick the president,” says Alex Salas, an 18-year-old senior at Golden Valley High School in Merced. “It means a lot to me and I’m excited to be able to pick the person that I believe should run our country.”
Salas is a member of the city’s Youth Council, a youth counterpart to the Merced City Council. He says that while he’s disappointed with the Republican win, he still believes in the importance of exercising his right to vote.
Part of the problem is indifference, said 16-year-old Cheng Vang, a student at Buhach Colony High School in Atwater. While this election cycle has been full of turmoil and drama, many of his friends and classmates don’t regularly follow politics and therefore don’t feel a personal connection to any of the issues on the ballot.
If the voting age were lowered to 16, however, Vang said youth would be more likely to pay attention and start forming consistent voting habits.
I am trying to bring an annual Nut Festival to Merced, to really make us a destination place while creating jobs for our citizens including a summer youth employment program for ages 16-19. I want to bring all the communities together to focus on how to move Merced together in a positive way that will include UC Merced students and fostering an atmosphere where they can use the skills they have acquired, creating new tech companies and expanding our health care while giving back to the community through helping with students in our city schools. This will help elevate ALL areas of our community creating jobs, which promotes public safety by lowering the crime level.
Growing up in the Valley shaped me. It made me who I am and the problems I’m passionate to solve. Merced is home, and it’s desperately in need of help. Our crime rate is among the nation's highest. Over a third of our people [live] below the poverty line, and our children suffer from epidemics of chronic disease. But we also have world-class resources and, if we do things right, a chance to really reinvent Merced and transform the region that raised me.