Who We Are: YVote 2021

Meet our amazing incoming cohort of rising change makers for the Summer of 2021

Adja Absa Diop
Adja Absa Diop
The Beacon School
"As a black woman, going to a predominantly white high school makes it very hard for my voice and needs to be heard by my peers and educators. YVote's initiative is to help young activists share their voices among peers and create a higher civic engagement, and this is the perfect space for me to create safe spaces and educate others on becoming more inclusive when talking about things like race in America.
Adrianna Benn
Adrianna Benn
School of the Future
"Centering issues hurting communities and the process of voting along with other people around my age is not only appealing but it is empowering. Millennials and GenZ are the most progressive group of people this nation has encountered. The promotion of citizens' constitutional right to vote should be emphasized through every age group to provide the community that everyone looks for when expressing their vote.
Afua Siaw
Health Professions High School
"Representation for me is not only about being a voice for marginalized students before it develops into long-term disorders, it's also about being the person low-income minorities can talk to because it's hard to open up when you don't feel like anyone can relate to you. We don't have a support system and that's who I want to be. It matters who you talk to, who understands the struggles you face, who you open up too."
Alba Medina
West Side Secondary School
"I want to participate in YVote because of my profound passion to help my community and participate in advocating for rights. I will vote when I turn 18 because it will give me the opportunity to have a bigger voice in the greater society. Voting is a very important act as it decides the hands democracy falls under, and helps citizens have a greater say, whether it be in their community or in society as a whole."
Aleeza Shekhani
New Explorations in Science, Technology and Math (NEST+m)
"I am participating in YVote because I care a lot about civic engagement and making sure people's voices are heard. I think that by voting for candidates that represent your values and ideals, you can bring the change needed in your community.
Alexa Okeke
A Philip Randolph Campus High School
"As I'm becoming more aware of the violence and injustice occurring in this world, I feel compelled to be a part of a new generation of community leaders, working to create change in their community by encouraging their fellow members to exercise their voting rights."
Alina Chen
School of the Future
"Voting is very overlooked, especially local elections. Those elections should be talked about more because if we want a change it starts from within our own community. I don't think we can expect to begin our journey for change at the white house's front door, truly that would be a dream but it is just not a reality."
Alisha Dookhie
St. John's Preparatory School
"As the younger generation, we are told to leave politics to the adults. But engaging youth in politics and activism is the best thing we can do for ourselves and future generations. Younger generations must understand every right we have as voters and have all necessary information; if not, our democracy is at stake."
Aliyah Taylor
Francis Lewis High School
"As a young female African American, YVote can help me gain a young audience to voice the importance of voting for our future. It starts with one voice working to create change and through joining YVote with so many voices, we can give people a reason to vote.
Alyssa Fowler
Benjamin Cardozo HS
"I'm interested in learning how to make change as a young person. Often times, I feel a bit defeated when I see things that I desperately want to change, but I have no way to go about it. Through this program I hope to learn ways to not only enact change myself and also work with people who may or may not share my views in order to increase understanding."
Angelica Lopez-Tucker
The Masters School
"I feel as if the ability to vote is a privilege and that voting must be done not only with your own interests in mind, but with knowledge and consideration of other historically underserved and underprivileged communities as well. Through voting, we can shape a better society for ourselves and others. Through voting, we can be changemakers in our own communities and practice activism as well."
Ariadna Sanchez
Richmond Hill High School
As young leaders of the world, I feel that it is incredibly crucial to use our voices for good because at the end of the day with our voices we have the power to move people and bring awareness to the issues we care so much about as well as creating change. I am heavily interested in using my voice for good and having positive impact/influence on others as well as causing change for those who need it."
Barsat Rithi
The Beacon School
"I align myself with more left leaning beliefs. I want to understand the other side's perspectives on issues to see if we can find any middle ground. Further, I believe it is important to have these discussions on political/civic matters outside the classroom. Usually it's difficult to speak on current events in school. This program will help bring light on these matters and normalize having these critical conversations."
Ben Hamel
Stuyvesant High School
"I have many strong opinions about important issues and empathy towards people who are not treated fairly. Every vote can make a difference, as we saw first hand in this presidential election. I also think that youth can influence their peers in ways that sometimes adults can't and the more young people that get involved...the more impact we can have on one another."
Cecilia Regina Castellon
Information Technology HS
"I'm participating in YVote because I want to make a positive difference in my school community and my school doesn’t have a lot of access or resources for civic engagement activities. I love that this initiative is is youth driven because I feel like we as the youth should be able to speak on issues that matter to us so that adults could listen to what we have to say, take us seriously, and help make changes for the future of the community."
Christina Etienne
Talent Unlimited High School
"I see voting as something very important and never something to joke about. It's a priority because it's our main source of change and the person we choose for a position can make or break our community. I heavily anticipate being able to vote at 18 because I feel like not only is it an important milestone but I will be making a change with my vote, doing something more than having a courageous conversation or spreading awareness."
Cindy Leonard
Hunter College High School
"I'm really excited about the emphasis on cross-partisan conversations. My school is generally more liberal, and I feel that our conversations have been limited by the homogeneity of our student body. I’m interested in engaging in discussions where alternative viewpoints aren’t half-hearted attempts at playing “devil’s advocate”. Bipartisan conversations allow us to understand the rhetoric and values that influence our opinions. It enables us to question and reformulate our evolving set of views."
Citlaly Monroy
Brooklyn High School for Law and Technology
"I want to be involve in programs where I can actually make a change. I think it's important to start within your community. With limited resources, I try to get involved as much as I can within my community and with what is happening in the world today. I stand up for what's right even if that means I will have to go against others. I try to start small, like in my own household and with my friends. I speak up as much as possible for what's right."
Daniel Huang
Brooklyn Technical HS
"I'm excited to be part of YVote because with all the police brutality and Asian racism going on, I want to make a difference in our community. In my area, the Asian community has tried to raise awareness on voting. However, even though there are posters everywhere and people on the streets are helping and translating for the elderly, the people we want most aren't in power yet. Being in YVote can improve my leadership skills to lead communities to vote for people who can use their powers to help save us from the dire issues currently."
Demetrios Vasilopoulos
The Beacon School
"I want to be part of YVote because I see a group of young leaders who are truly dedicated to making a change in this society which I’m eager to assist with. We must amplify youth voices and push for youth advocacy. Our generation holds the power for meaningful change but we can’t just stop there, we also have to pave the way for future generations. Voter apathy decides a fate that everyone seemingly accepts. By engaging the youth and increasing voting, we ensure that people understand the power voting yields."
Derrick Chu
Fort Hamilton High School
"I want to participate in YVote because I plan to pursue a career in law or law enforcement. I believe that by engaging in the activities offered by YVote, I can build up my experience within this field and increase my knowledge. I believe that forming a campaign in my school can help resolve some issues and start a building block in my career. As a young teenager, it's important to show our voices that aren't highly recognized."
Ehidiamen (Alfred) Akhere
The Scholars' Academy
"We are currently living in two pandemics: COVID-19 and the lack of youth representation in many important sectors, including political affairs. Often it's said that "we are the future" but how can we be the future if we aren't given a chance to use our voices now? Many young individuals are shut out of critical conversations until we reach a certain age. But at that point, it's too late--and the cycle of no change continues. I want to educate youth to vote and to help our communities. "
Elizabeth (Gigi) Bryce
Stuyvesant High School
"I am applying to participate in YVote because I, as someone who can't vote yet, I want to still make change and help people have access to voting as it is their right. Voting is not accessible enough to people who are disadvantaged, and the overall population's choices are not always reflected in elections. That needs to change, and I hope that with YVote I can be a part of that change."
Emma Kagan
The Beacon School
"I am conflicted on voting because while it is important to participate in democracy and put your vote to use, I feel that my individual vote is so small and insignificant, especially in a populous city like New York, that my vote doesn’t actually matter in large elections. I also disagree with the New York State requirement that you can only vote in primary elections for candidates of the party you are affiliated with through your voting registration."
Emma Nina
Baruch College Campus High School
"I believe that voting is necessary because it is critical for our country to be represented by leaders who shares our concerns, issues, and solutions. The ability to vote ensures this even more and means that an individual is participating in the democratic process. I anticipate voting once I reach the age of 18, but before I do so, I intend to conduct extensive research to ensure that the person I vote for is the person that is fit to serve for a set period of time."
Gabriella Nieves
Academy of Finance and Enterprise
"Today's youth is critical to the future of our world so I find it extremely important for our youth to be having these important, and sometimes challenging, conversations. The idea of being able to hear people from different backgrounds and experiences on social and political topics excites me because many people my age don't have huge interest in politics. The right to vote is a privilege that many in other countries do not have. America's voting system may not be ideal, and the peoples votes may not be direct, but it is what we can do for now."
Gianna Jean-Pierre
NYC iSchool
"No matter what your political affiliation, a big part of voting is about representation-- it's about representing all groups of people and their views. It isn't necessarily about who you think should win the election, but first about whether or not everyone has access to make that decision for themselves. As a black, second-generation woman, I don't see much representation of me and my background in any respect, let alone voting, and I'd like to change in the future."
Grace Quizhpi
Academy of Finance and Enterprise
"I applied to this program to learn how taking action and leadership about the things that are important to me affects the future of the next generation and I look forward to learn how to change communities for the better. I like to spread the news and help people become more informed on the situations that are current, because it might not be as important to me but it can be to others and they could take action."
Hachaliah Messam
Benjamin Cardozo HS
"I would describe my self as an activist because I really do try to make people around me aware of what is going on at the moment and what they can do to help. My family and I always discuss current events and how we feel about things, I try to persuade and influence them to do the correct things like donate etc. I believe that voting should be done by everyone, that those who you vote for should reflect your beliefs and where you stand on issues."
Imaan Chaudhry
Saint Catherine Academy
"I want more youth to be interested in voting. As someone interested in politics, in both understanding how it works but also just getting the chance to help people in any way, voting and improving the numbers is how we as the younger generation will not only have our voice heard but enact change. I would love the opportunity to educate and implement issued-based campaigns in my school as I know so many are interested in politics and issues but are not aware of how they can make concrete change."
Jacob Aurelus
James Madison High School
"I’m applying to participate in this initiative because I want to be able to debate people on the issues that our city and our country face. I don’t think everyone should vote because people are easily swayed by what is popular. As a result, they can be swayed into movements not based in factual reality. I anticipate that I will vote when I turn 18 because I have been involved in politics for a couple of years and I have a decent understanding of the issues, unlike a lot of people in this country."
Jannah Abo-Donia
Midwood High School
"I'm not afraid to voice my opinions or demand change. I like to keep myself educated about the world around us and stay up to date on certain issues. I definitely plan on voting when I'm 18. It's such an important part of our democracy and I always stress that we should be taking advantage of our right to vote."
Jennifer Monterroza
Hillcrest High School
"I want to be more engaged in politics. I have a sense for justice as I see what happens to people like me in the world and my neighborhood. It isn’t fair that we, the future generation, cannot decide the future we want to set for ourselves. I want to change the medieval ways of discrimination, denial, and injustice to a new era of equality, sustainability, and actual freedom. But I don’t know how to do that. I want to learn how to advocate properly for a better future and how to handle those not in agreement."
Jin Watanabe
Eleanor Roosevelt HS
"In kindergarten, I was hospitalized for a serious medical issue. Luckily my family had health insurance but the fact that millions of Americans are uninsured or can’t afford unexpected medical needs shows a major failing of our country. Further, the recent rise of xenophobic politics has been worrying me as a descendant of immigrants, many of whom came to the U.S. fleeing violence. I’d love to make a difference by leading outreach and building civic engagement in my school and community."
Joanna Zhu
The Bronx High School of Science
"I am always looking forward to getting involved in social movements that take place but I got lost in where to start. When I found out about YVote I was sure that this was the opportunity for me to finally get involved and that I would grab on to it. Initiatives like this interest me in that it gives people the chance to speak on what they believed and take action for a change."
Liana Reyes
Energy Tech High School
"My feelings about voting are that all those who can vote, should vote. Voting is a privilege and I think people sometimes take for granted the opportunity they have to make a change for our nation and for the future generation. I will vote after I turn 18 because voting means that I am being a voice for the unfortunate by taking that action, and by being a part of a change in our society."
Madeline Mayes
Fort Hamilton High School
"I love being in YVote—and sure it’s fun and fuels my passion for politics and my desire for human interaction—but I’m not doing this for me. I’m engaged in civics for everyone who isn’t. I’m here because there are so many youth who aren’t when they should be. So youth, if you’re reading this, get out there and vote as soon as you can because you’re going to change the world!"
Marame Diop
The Beacon School
"Voting gives citizens a voice and democratic freedom. Young activists are the ones speaking against the injustices of this country. We are the future doctors, leaders, lawyers, representatives, and presidents. In order to ensure safety within our country for all marginalized groups, we must make sure to express our concerns to the government and pick the leader who enforces change. And voting is the way to achieve this goal."
Matteus Schmelke
World Journalism Preparatory High School
"I 100% plan on voting after I turn 18. Our democracy is such a valued institution to me and I believe participating in that institution through voting is an essential part of maintaining out country and keeping its institution strong. Voting is one of the main ways we can directly impact and change out society."
Mickellie Wright
Clara Barton high School
"Our race affects how likely we are to be pulled over by police, how likely you are to be released or detained pretrial, how likely the state is to seek the death penalty, and how severely you are sentenced. It's very troubling and frightening to know that being of minority background can be one of the determinants for why you're being pulled over or why your sentencing is hefty."
Muhammad Islam
The Baccalaureate School for Global Education
"I have always been interested in politics and helping get the vote out. I have always wanted to take action for my own city and try to make a city that’s more dedicated to its people. That can only happen by voting for people who will listen to the people. I anticipate voting after turning 18 because that’s one of the best ways to make change and elect people you believe in."
Mukilan Muthukumar
Hunter College High School
"Voting is the backbone of democracy and, while that phrase might be overused, it still rings true. I think too many people, especially in New York, don’t vote because they think their vote won’t make a difference. Because my parents are immigrants, I never experienced going into the voting booth and felt sidelined on election day. The prospect of voting during the 2024 General Election, the first time I can vote, excites me."
Muktadir Anas
Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics
"I'm participating in YVote because as a teenager who is starting to understand more and more about how the world works, it's obvious that our Constitution of what this country was promised on isn't being addressed today. We have all types of problems and to go about them, this generation is responsible. I believe starting small within our communities can go a long way and surely make an impact to others around us."
Muslimat Oguntola
Bronx Health Sciences HS
"To me, activism means fighting for your rights and what you believe in. It is the act of supporting social justice teams and standing against all injustice. As an activist, you can use various campaigning actions to bring about the change you want. There are many ways to become activists. Some protest, some petition, some rally, and others go on strike. I try my best to support all social justice causes because I believe in fighting for what you believe in."
Mykalah Threadgill
Hillcrest High School
"I've already actively participated in by signing up to work during the polls. I understand how important, more now than ever, it is to fight the good fight persistently. We are the future and what happens today on the political landscape can affect me and the choices I have available to me tomorrow. I don't want to settle for what's given to me, I want to take what I've earned and fought for."
Namra Afzal
High School for Youth and Community Development
"I'm not of the legal voting age yet. However, when I am, I do plan on voting. Every vote counts and those who say "my vote won't make a difference" are the reason why a large part of the population doesn't vote. Voting is essential and determines who will run this country and how. Voting for a candidate you believe in will help build a better future and a better nation."
Nathalie Marte
Talent Unlimited High School
"I consider myself to be an outgoing person and one to take control and speak up about equity and what is a basic human right. I want to take a stand and fight for those who might not have the strength to speak up themselves and being a leader. YVote seems like the best place for someone like me who is trying to speak up more and learn more leadership skills and how to be an activist and even make change for our future."
Nika Zeltser
Susan E Wagner High School
"I want to participate in YVote because there needs to be a change in the attitude towards voting, especially in young people. The youth are the country's future, and the next voting season is coming up faster than we expect. With a lack of participation from the younger generation in voting cycles, we, as citizens, do not elect the leader of our choosing. Our voices do not get heard, and it impacts our lives years into the future."
Nina Princess Mananu
The Beacon School
"Voting is a right we all have that needs to be put to greater use. It's also a privilege depending on who you ask around the world. This past year served as the pinnacle of a movement for equality and racial justice. Young people have the characteristic of making friends and surrounding ourselves with people who make use of the energy we encompass. With social media, we can help spread the word and be part of deciding on people we want in government."
Omar Darwish
The Bronx HS of Science
"I'm drawn to YVote for the open political dialogue and involvement. How can the world foster the next generation of critical political thinkers without discussions of various issues that plague our world? I live by a simple truth of always hearing out an argument or idea before deciding my stance on it, no matter how radical or unbecoming. After coming to an understanding of the idea, then and only then can we choose to support, oppose, or even ignore it."
Parth Joshi
South Brunswick High School
"Throughout American history, people have fought vigorously to get their community the right to vote so utilizing this power now is so important. Wasting your vote is like letting go of your power as an American and it is giving up and giving into politicians that do not represent your best interests, wants, or needs. Getting young people to vote is so important as our vote will decide the future of politics and the future of America by extension."
Pragyam Tiwari
Unity Center for Urban Technologies
"To me, it is absolutely appalling that people with incredible power have no accountability and I hope to improve the system in that regard. Bringing change is a collaborative and team-effort, and I must encourage others for true change to take place. The concept of all stating their opinions and coming together to build policies that align with the interests of the public is very appealing to me."
Quentin Anderson
Talent Unlimited High School
"I want to be a politician when I'm older, and YVote's objectives correlate with my path. I believe voting is essential for change in society. However, in order to vote one must be politically conscience to one's community. I always try to be up todate on recent events in the news, and express my viewpoint to family and friends. I try to publicly express my ideas for change in racial equity and equality, for American policies that don't just benefit a group of people but the nation as a whole, and so much more."
Randy Mendez
Inwood Early College For Health And Information Technologies
"I believe it is important to be knowledgeable about politics and the things around you that are affecting you overall. I believe being ignorant about things involved in your life is not positive and many people are ignorant about things such as voting. This program could help me learn about things I don't know and maybe help other learn those things as well."
Rukhma Chaudhry
Preston High School
"I would describe myself as an activist because I actively engage with posts and media regarding critical news and human rights concerns in particular. Most recently, I have been active in spreading more awareness about Black Lives Matter. I live in a neighborhood where there have been outwardly racist movements. In an attempt to combat that, I have worked hard to help people better understand what is happening. In this way, I have encouraged people around me to acknowledge the problem and see what they can do to support those who are facing injustices."
Ruvimbonashe Chigiji
Benjamin Cardozo High School
"I wish to experience concepts which I have always taken interest in but because of my lack of knowledge/experience I am very foreign to. This initiative wraps around spaces of the political agenda for which I not only want, but need, to know, which is what makes this so different yet equally exciting. I am not an influencer nor does my voice matter to most people but my voice matters to me, and so does my impact regardless of how minor the scale may be. So at all times I speak, debate, repost/share ideologies that align to what I believe is just."
Salma Rodriguez
City College Academy of the Arts
"Having a community that is open for everyone to express their thoughts on multiple social issues and discuss the importance of them is very intriguing. The environment of the program is important because it determines how enjoyable all participants' experiences will be. I want to become a leader people look up to or even seek any guidance. I want to use my knowledge and, with the help of this program, learn helpful skills, feedback, and experience to help others. I want to become someone to speak for others who may not be able to be heard."
Sarah Khan
The Young Women's Leadership School of Astoria
"I was inspired to apply for this program due to my limited experience and knowledge with elections. I look forward to learning more about our city and both the local and national government. I need a clearer understanding of voting if I am going to vote in the near future. I want to hear and uplift the other activists at this program as well. Overall, I would like to make informed decisions and encourage others to do the same."
Sophia Longmuir
Frank Sinatra School of the Arts
"I'm in favor of voting as I believe it is an important part of our current system of government and society, however I feel like the impact of voting isn't that substantial due to systems like the electoral college which are incredibly corrupt and don't let the people's voices be heard. I will be voting when I turn eighteen but it's not the only thing I'll be doing concerning elected officials because there are many aspects of our democracy which need to change for voting to become what it was originally meant to be."
Teresa Emilia Castillo
Manhattan Village Academy
"The issues that I am most interested in talking about and being educated on are racial and criminal justice because I want to know why many innocent people of color face many years of jail time when the person who did the wrong doing isn't caught or making them face their punishments. I want to be part of YVote to be more involved in civic and political issues that affect many around me and to be more informed and educated of the many issues that are going on around the world."
Tsering Sherpa
Manhattan Village Academy
"I'm excited to participate in YVote because I do believe that I am a leader and I believe that I can build relationships with others about things that I am passionate about. What interests me about YVote is doing community campaigns in order to increase awareness about why voting is important. I'm interested in talking with others about civic and political issues which I feel are very relevant and important."
Valentina Fabião Lepecki
Eleanor Roosevelt HS
"I am interested in YVote because after this past presidency I have come to realize that the youth has major power when it comes to activism. When we come together as one and fight for the same causes, adults and representatives listen. Our voices are more powerful together, our strength is shown in numbers; we can fight for what we believe in because we are formidable. We need to get the message across that voting matters, and that it does make a difference: many of the youth don't grasp that (yet!)."
Xiomara Williams
Talent Unlimited High School
"I'm applying to participate in YVote because I think that voting is really important and a lot of people my age or just in my community often think that their votes don't matter or count, which is not true. Being a part of YVote would allow me to promote voting to many people and provide them with information they may not have gotten otherwise to make educated voting decisions."
Zachary Taylor
School of the Future
"I would like to consider myself an activist, but I think I cannot as I do not have much experience. I am hoping an activity like YVote will help me grow as a changemaker/activist. I also want to be much more informed than I already am before I can truly call myself an activist, because I want to make a difference in the community and help improve out democracy."
Zoe Sonkin
Eleanor Roosevelt HS
"Now is the most crucial time to engage the community because all of our voices should be heard. Personally, what I find the most interesting about this initiative is that at its core is collective youth power. Even if we can't vote in this election season, we can still impact critical issues, such as LGBTQ+ rights, criminal justice reform, racial justice, and demand action from the candidates."

Racial/Ethnic Mix of 2021 YVote Change Makers