On a recent morning, Bushra Amiwala cheerfully approached shoppers at a supermarket in Chicago, Illinois. “Do you have time for a quick signature?” she asked, before introducing herself. Bushra and a slew of young volunteers were collecting signatures to get her name on the ballot for the Cook County Board of Commissioners, the legislative body in charge of the county’s laws and finances.
A sophomore at DePaul University in Chicago, Bushra received 1,300 signatures—well over the 380 needed to secure her spot on the ballot. This March, she’ll go up against a four-term incumbent in the Democratic primary. If she wins that, she’ll compete in the general election in November.
Bushra, whose parents emigrated from Pakistan just before she was born, says she’s running to be an advocate for her generation. Many of her volunteers are her age and are working on their first campaign.
“We should have a voice as well,” she says. “We are all desperate to be heard, and it is about time someone were here to listen.”
Across the country, young people like Bushra are getting involved in politics, whether it’s participating in a protest, donating to a cause, or running for office. In Kansas alone, five teens are campaigning for governor. Another teen, eighth-grader Ethan Sonneborn, 13, is running for governor of Vermont. (Kansas and Vermont are the only states with no minimum age requirement to serve as governor.) In the past year, about 430 people under age 25 have contacted Run for Something—a liberal-leaning group that recruits young candidates—about running for office.
Though seasoned politicians may be skeptical of teens’ abilities—“Maybe they ought to run for student council instead,” suggested one Kansas lawmaker—young people believe they have something to bring to the table.
And they’re right, says Svante Myrick. At age 24, he was elected the youngest-ever mayor of Ithaca, New York, in 2011. As Myrick recently told Time, “The youngest generation is pretty sure that we can do it better than the folks that have been doing it for a long time.”