My name is Michael Baick. I am a junior at Longmeadow High School. I was a Field Organizer for State Senator Eric Lesser’s re-election campaign, and I am the Western Mass Coordinator of the Massachusetts High School Democrats. My experience in politics and youth organization has shown me the necessity and utility of getting high school students involved, and exactly how to do it.

I got started in civic engagement when I was eight years old, holding signs for Barack Obama in New Hampshire. I have participated fervently ever since. In 2014, I was a campaign intern for State Senator Eric Lesser. In 2016, I became a Field Organizer, most importantly helping to recruit and organize some of the 50 high school students from across the region who volunteered for the campaign. Senator Lesser’s 2016 campaign taught me that the high school student is the ideal political footsoldier. We use iPhone apps to record data from our canvases, we go from door to door with speed and stamina, and in the summer we have a lot of spare time on our hands. Furthermore, It’s hard to slam a door on a fresh-faced kid, and it’s even harder to ignore one who demonstrates a critical understanding of the issues. High school students are a vast and largely untapped resource. The question, then, is how political campaigns and progressive causes can get them involved.

In 2015, the Massachusetts High School Democrats began to make inroads into Western Mass for the first time. Starting with a dozen kids in West Springfield and growing through people connecting with one another in political campaigns and Democratic Town Committee meetings, the organization expanded rapidly. We run as a network of autonomous chapters, but work together on regional and statewide projects. Our network helped bring about Eric Lesser’s 11-point victory in November, and envoys of Massachusetts High School Democrats from Northampton to Cape Cod helped bring about US Senator Maggie Hassan’s razor-thin 0.1-point victory in New Hampshire. Student-run organizations collaborating with adults is the most effective way to bring teenagers in.

As the Western Massachusetts Coordinator, one of my main duties is expanding our organization, to help build chapters in every high school in our area. The critical building block of every chapter in every high school is not a faculty advisor, but a strong-willed student. The most important part of my job is to find and advise that student. She recruits aggressively, works with adult politicians and activists to find projects which teach students about civic engagement while also making a difference, and inspires younger students to take his or her place once graduation day arrives. The teenager who is frustrated with apathy among his peers must not only become engaged, but bring friends along. It’s time for the next generation of progressive leaders to get to work.

If you or a teenager you know want to start a Massachusetts High School Democrats’ chapter in your hometown, or if you want to reach out to us for any reason, please contact mbaick@hsdems.org.

Michael Baick
Western Mass Coordinator, Massachusetts High School Democrats

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