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Millennials get involved with politics through RU Running?

Started by the Eagleton Institute of Politics's Center for Youth Political Participation, RU Running? gives students an inside look at the political system by pairing them with young adults in public office. – Photo by null

Started by the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics's Center for Youth Political Participation, RU Running? is an initiative that trains young people to run for local office.

Its goal is to connect student participants with young adults holding elected public office and campaign operatives, raise awareness on how to access the political party system and the basics of campaigns and offer opportunities for students to put what they were learning into practice.

The project began as a joint effort between Eagleton and the League of Women Voters of New Jersey's Young People's Network, according to the center's website.

“Millennials constitute a large and potentially powerful segment of the electorate," said Elizabeth Matto, the director of the Center for Youth Political Participation and an associate research professor at Eagleton. "By voting regularly and in large numbers, they can impact the political process. Voting isn't the only way to exert political power though.” 

The project wants young people to think about elections as more than just voting, and encourages them to get involved in the process. 

While the program is geared toward future political campaigns, college students being elected to office is not unheard of. 

MSNBC reports that in 2014, an 18-year-old West Virginia University student Saira Blair, made history by becoming the youngest person ever to be elected to office in the United States — defeating her 44-year-old opponent to represent her small district in the West Virginia state legislature. 

Millennials also seem dissatisfied with not only the current presidential administration but the current political system as well. 

According to a poll also taken by NBC, 46 percent of millennials “strongly disapprove” of the job President Donald J. Trump has done thus far, and the polls claim 71 percent of millennials are more interested in candidates' politics than their personalities or party affiliations.

Matto believes that millennials should continue to field candidates to ensure that they are being represented in government.

“Millennials have a stake in the political process, and I would argue that they deserve a seat at the table. RU Running? is meant to demystify the process of running for office and working on a campaign. It's my hope that RU Running? will start students down the path of claiming their seat at the table and exerting political power by holding political office,” Matto said.

Matto went on to cite issues pertaining to millennials that could easily be turned into political-campaign points, including crippling student debt and ensuring a healthy job market after graduation. The Brockrpress website states that Americans collectively owe $1.48 trillion in student loan debt spread out across 44 million borrowers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 9.6 percent of the youth workers are unemployed. 

Matto said the program is open to all students, even students who do not wish to run for office should be involved in the campaigns of students who represent their interests. 

Students interested in networking with elected officials and like-minded students can come to an RU Running? event on Feb. 15 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Eagleton Institute of Politics.

“A republic only works if citizens are willing to put themselves forward and participate — by paying attention to politics, by volunteering, by voting and even by running for office and serving,” Matto said.

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