SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Younger Americans have traditionally voted at lower rates than their older fellow citizens. But in California, there's now a big push to get current high school juniors and seniors actively engaged in the political process ahead of the 2020 general election.
Across the city of San Jose Tuesday afternoon, 13 high schools held lunchtime pep rallies to pre-register students to vote, meaning when these 16 and 17-year-olds turn 18, they'll automatically be able to go to the polls.
"Our voices are going to be heard and I like that, you know? We're making a wave," said Yerba Buena High School senior Guadalupe Rodriguez
The rallies are part of a new pilot program organized by Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.
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"These millennials, they are creative, they are generous, they want to volunteer, and so in some respects, I think what they're telling us is that the parties aren't speaking to them, and they're going to speak for themselves, and I'm excited about that," said Chavez.
More than 100 volunteers were trained by the county to help staff the various voter registration drives.
"It's wonderful to feel and hear from them their sense of wanting to be engaged, their sense of wanting to take part," said Julie Cates, a volunteer with the League of Women Voters.
Jimmy Nguyen, Yerba Buena student body president, said he was inspired by the number of classmates that came out to pre-register or register to vote.
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"On social media, there's a lot of calls for young people to vote, especially with recent movements like March for Our Lives," said Nguyen.
Studies show that more than ever before, more youth are turning online engagement into offline political action.
"Gun violence, sexual harassment and assault, climate change, I mean, these are issues that I think young voters are connecting to, perhaps in a way that we haven't seen in recent generations," said Prof. Melinda Jackson, PhD, chair of the San Jose State University political science department.
ABC7 News also visited Evergreen Valley High School where students spent the noon hour sharing why they wanted to ensure that their voices were amplified.
"The voice that we have as a community is very powerful and if we use that for positive change, then we can make a huge impact," said Seema Vora, Evergreen Valley student body president. "It's really important for us to vote because a lot of the policies that are made right now are affecting us, but we don't get a say in it."
School administrators say they're proud of the work their students are doing on a local level.
"I'm really inspired," said Evergreen Valley principal Kyle Kleckner. "Everyday when I come here, I see our students working toward not only their academics to improve themselves, but also working for the community as well."
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Pilot voter registration drive for high school students in San Jose