Young Democrats hope to spark political interest
The Eastern Panhandle Young Democrats (EPYD) recently elected five members of the community to serve on its Executive Board. The members included Emma Lindsey-Severns of Shepherdstown, president, Aneesh Sompalli of Martinsburg, executive vice president; Alex Orton of Shenandoah Junction, vice president of Programming; Jeremy Cook of Shepherdstown, secretary; and Matt Frye of Charles Town, treasurer.
The incoming group hopes to gain momentum by recruiting members to the organization. According to Cook the age for membership is between 18 and 35; however, he said, the group does have some associate members above the 35 age cutoff. Those members are not allowed to vote on issues but are welcome.
According to Lindsey-Severns, one of her goals as the new president is to simply get young people engaged.
“One of my main goals is to not only increase youth’s role in our party’s politics locally, but on the regional and state levels,” Lindsey-Severns said. “I would like to make sure our voices are heard,” she continued, speaking directly to the common theme that the Eastern Panahndle is often negelected at the state level.
Cook explained that since the 2016 elections, the increase in membership is growing. He shared that his belief that the younger generation is engaged politially although in a different way than previous generations.
“Activism in the digital sphere is the gateway to more personal involvement,” he said. “Young people use social media to get things done.”
He went on to mention the fact that the less than 30 generation has now overtaken the baby boomers and this young generation is seeing that they “are young but also have power.”
“They are very political,” he said.
The Eastern Panhandle Young Democrats are one of many similar chapters around the state and the nation. They fall under the umbrella of the West Virginia Young Democrats and in turn the National Young Democrats organization. There are multiple chapters within the state, including a separate one on the Shepherd campus that garners more of the college-age individuals. The Eastern Panhandle chapter pulls membership from Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties.
“The group of individuals in the 21-30 age range tend to move away from the college group but have a place to connect,” Cook said.
The group hopes to leverage the talents of young people in the community to lay a strong foundation for the upcoming 2018 midterm elections as well as develop a presence in local politics including town and county governments.
“We want to get young people engaged to make a difference on the ground level,” Cook said. “with a hyper local focus.”
“The local and state level politics are much less divisive than the national scene,” Lindsey-Severns said. “So we plan to focus on town, county and state involvement.”
She went on to say, “While we are a political organization, our main focus is to get youth involved in the process.” The education of young people today will grow leaders for the future, she said.
The group plans to focus attention to helping make voting easier for Shepehrd students, giving them a voice in some of the local town decisions.
“Putting polling places on campus and making the process more accessible to students would help,” said Lindsey-Severns.
Cook shared that the Young Democrats also hope to develop a speaker series with presentations focused on young leadership.
“We want to be a role model on how to be involved and even how to get elected to office,” he said.
For their first event since the election of the board, EPYD hosted the West Virginia Young Democrats annual state convention at Shepherd University. The two day convention featured guest presentations from Belinda Biafore, the West Virginia Democratic Party chair, and Louis Elrod, current national president of Young Democrats of America.
During the convention, Samuel Brown VII of Shepherdstown was elected as Vice President of Communications on the State Executive Board, and Sammi Brown of Charles Town was elected as vice president of Membership on the State Executive Board.
“It was great to see young people from across the state come together to discuss solutions and strategies for moving forward in West Virginia,” said Lindsey-Severns. “The State Executive Board’s programming provided invaluable information about what it takes to mobilize young candidates. I’m excited to see the state come together for a larger purpose and look forward to the 2018 election to put these lessons in practice.”
Those who would like to learn more about the Eastern Panhandle Young Democrats should contact Orton via Facebook at WV Eastern Panhandle Young Democrats or through the website www.yepyoungdems.com.