The following story was written as part of the JEA Write-offs for the Online News Package category at the Fall NSPA/JEA Conference in Chicago. This story earned a “Superior” ranking.

To elect government officials, the yearly midterm elections have begun. Early elections are open now and election day will occur on Nov. 6.

“A lot of people come to this country for freedom and rights,” voter Danielle Catagenes said. “My parents are immigrants and voting gives us a chance to make changes, even if it’s the one use of our voices. We can go out and make the changes even if it’s a little doesn’t happen right away. I think it’s worth just going out there and trying to do your part, especially as an American.”

Every two years, between the presidential elections, the midterm election occurs. This election allows citizens to vote for members of Congress, governors and other local officials.

“I was raised in a household where my grandparent’s grandfather was very adamant never give up your rights because they immigrated here from Cuba, under Fidel Castro’s rule,” English 11 teacher Laura Penrod. “They always said people want to try and take away your rights, but don’t just let it happen so I’ve always been taught that you need to let your voice even if you’re just one person.”

Previously, seniors participated in Candidate Night, where the school invited officials running for office to explain why they’re running and their political views. Both parents and students alike were invited to meet the politicians.

“Candidate Night was an extremely eye-opening experience,” senior Alexis Weiss said. “I am always bombarded with political ads referring to why we shouldn’t vote for a certain person, but I rarely see the positive side of their campaign. Although I am a senior, I cannot vote yet, if the election was held next year I could, but it’s out of my hands. If I was of age, I would definitely vote when early voting started.”

This week, US History classes held a mock election to understand politics in America today. After researching the politicians campaigning, juniors were given a form to fill out, choosing the officials they would elect if they could.

“In US History, we created a mock election, to figure out who we would vote for, if we were of the age to vote,” junior Maya Negash said. “Everyone was required to take the ‘I side with’ quiz. It revealed who we were most likely to vote for and whose viewpoints were similar to what we wanted in an elected official. After learning my viewpoints, I urged my parents to vote and I’m in the process of getting my parents to vote for certain people, such as Jacky Rosen.”

Through both Candidate Night and the mock elections, students are given ways to remain involved with America’s current political situation.

“I think it’s good to practice [staying politically involved] at a young age, so you’re an informed voter,” Grayslake North High School Journalism Advisor Tom New said. “[However, teenagers shouldn’t] believe everything they see online, and [should] look for multiple sources and viewpoints.”

Early voting closes today, but election day is Nov. 6 for those who still need to vote. Voting registration will be open until Nov. 5.

“I understand, I am 16, I can’t vote yet, but my mom, dad, sister and brother can all vote,” Jennifer Shelley said. “If I work to make sure my parents vote and my family friends vote and use their voices, then I’m making my stance and staying involved. My friends act like we cannot do anything because we’re so young, but we can volunteer to pass out flyers or make sure people sign a petition. There are things we can do.”

Although the legal voting age in Nevada is 18, younger teenagers can still make political change. For example, they can attend town hall meetings, volunteer at voting registrations and protest for their rights.

“I think to be involved in the process of the level you can obviously at the school level you can be involved with technically your politicians at school,” Penrod said. “Your administrators are the people that make changes on your campus, so many students challenge against them for rights. Students need to take that into account for the future to learn how to do that later on in life.”

Do you think voting is important?