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  • Wisdom Wednesday

Speak Out: Presidential Election Issues From the Youth's Perspective

What’s the issue that most interests you about the presidential campaign and why? Reporting by YCteen staff.

LGBTQ Rights

Cindy Gu, 17, Stuyvesant HS Last June, when same-sex marriage became legal, I was overwhelmed with joy when I placed the rainbow filter on my Facebook profile picture. The LGBTQ community should have all of the same rights as anyone else.

Even though I am straight, I believe a person shouldn’t have to step out of the closet because, in a perfect world, a “closet” shouldn’t exist. A person’s sexual orientation should be their business and not judged by anyone else.

If Hillary Clinton is elected, I think the LGBTQ community will be better off because Democrats tend to support gay rights. But if Donald Trump is elected, I think he will try to limit their freedom. His attacks on Mexicans, Muslims, and women make it easy to imagine him attacking the LGBTQ community too.

Charging Teens as Adults

Eunisah Burke, 18, Broome Street Academy New York is one of only two states where teens are prosecuted as adults once they turn 16, even for minor crimes.

Nine states try 17-year-olds as adults. I would like to see our next president raise that age to 21 nationwide.

It has been proven that the brain is still developing until the age of 25. This means the decision-making part of our teen brain isn’t fully mature yet.

This issue matters to me because I was arrested at 17. The courts wanted to convict me as an adult. But because it was my first offense, I was given another chance. If I’d been thrown in jail with adults I would have been terrified. I’m lucky I didn’t have to go through that, but what about teens who aren’t so lucky?

Research shows teens convicted as adults are much more likely to be physically and sexually assaulted and to commit suicide than adult inmates. Studies have also shown that the psychological effects on young people when they get out of jail are worse than for adults.

If sentenced to adult prison before they are adults themselves, they’ll also miss out on learning life skills to help them live independently and avoid future crime. Too many people come out of jail and end up having to find their hustle illegally, because nobody will hire them. They may also face housing discrimination, or be unable to afford rent because they can’t find a decent job. So how does the cycle break?

We need to elect a president who will raise the sentencing age nationwide and create more programs to help youth instead of punishing them. We should have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes instead of being discarded.


Hoa K. Vu, 18, New York City Tech-CUNY The issue that matters the most to me is poverty. I currently live in a shelter and I know what life in poverty is like.

During the presidential election, the candidates have talked about how to address income inequality in broad terms: Hillary Clinton wants to increase the minimum wage and make the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes. Donald Trump has talked about taxing the wealthy, but he hasn’t discussed income inequality much.

Although Clinton’s campaign has proposed free public college for families with annual incomes of $125,000 or less, neither candidate has talked much about improving elementary and high schools. (See “Clinton or Trump: Who’s Better for Students?” p. 9) I just graduated from a high school in a poor neighborhood. There are only two advanced placement (AP) classes offered and no art or music classes. There’s no gym. For one of the years I attended, there was no biology teacher.

When some students get a lesser education than others, it deprives them of opportunities and the power to influence decisions made by lawmakers and other people in controlling positions. So they just stay poor. It also takes away their chance to come up with new ideas and that means the whole country is cheated out of their potential talent and creativity.

Voter Restrictions

David Hammer, 18, Magen David Yeshiva I just turned 18, so this year I will be voting for the first time. I’m excited about it.

However, even though voting is a right for all Americans, some Republican lawmakers are attempting to prevent certain people from exercising that right. That should be unconstitutional. According to The New York Times, state Republican legislators in Texas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin have all tried to pass voter restrictions. Some of these laws or proposals have been either dismissed or rolled back by the higher courts.

But according to the Brennan Center for Justice, at New York University, in 2016, 15 states will have new voting restrictions for the first time in a presidential election.

These restrictions require specific types of identification, and mostly target black and Hispanic voters who often don’t have the money or means to obtain these types of government-issued ID.

Preventing low-income citizens from voting puts the upper classes at an advantage. For example, low-income Americans might want to vote for a candidate who wants to raise the minimum wage and provide universal health care, while a wealthy voter would vote for a candidate who cares more about protecting businesses and lowering taxes for the rich. Every citizen deserves the right to vote and shouldn’t be denied it.

Protection From Gun Violence

Laisha Frias, 15, KAPPA International HS In some places, it seems like it’s more of a hassle to get a new credit card than to buy a gun. Mass shootings in Sandy Hook, Orlando, San Bernadino, and elsewhere are possible when people with mental health problems have such an easy time getting access to guns.

According to NBC News, one person is killed by a firearm every 17 minutes in the United States. And mass shootings are only a small percentage of the amount of gun violence in this country. On average, 11,000 people die from gun violence every year. Many of these shootings happen in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the U.S. The people who live in these neighborhoods deserve better.

We need a leader who supports background checks on any person who tries to buy a gun and will crack down on illegal gun sales. We need a leader who will take action that will help prevent another Sandy Hook or Orlando from happening. Finally, we need a leader who will work to prevent the everyday gun violence that takes too many innocent lives in my community, and others across the country.

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