Becoming a Youth Leader and Advocate
Carrie S., 20, was named National Student of the Year by Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and served as an intern with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). She is now a junior at the University of North Dakota, pursuing a double major in communications and international studies. Carrie shares her experiences working to promote safe driving among teens and her belief in the power of youth voice in government.
Do you think youth should get involved in government?
I believe in the power of youth. I believe in the importance of including young people in decisions that will impact them. I believe in government. So, it should come as no surprise that I believe in youth involvement in federal agencies.
How did you get involved in advocacy and government?
In the years since I first became involved with SADD, I’ve had many opportunities to participate in government. While in high school, I had the opportunity to serve as an inaugural member of a youth advisory board for “Think About It,” a peer-to-peer education program from the North Dakota Department of Transportation. When I was a junior in high school, I was blessed to be involved in the passing and signing of North Dakota’s ban on texting while driving and a bill that strengthened the state’s driver’s licensing legislation. These early experiences and hands-on involvement showed me the power of youth voice in government and encouraged me to seek further involvement with the bodies and agencies that help improve the safety of people.
During the summer after my freshman year of college, I took my interests to the next level. As part of my duties as the National Student of the Year for SADD, I participated in an internship with DOT. For a born-and-raised North Dakotan, the idea of spending a summer in Washington, D.C., was thrilling. After a few weeks on the job, I also learned how meaningful the work is. While at DOT, I had the opportunity to go to countless meetings on a wide variety of topics. The education I received about the government’s internal operations and how it interacts with outside organizations helped shape the way I now view our federal system.
What did you learn from your DOT internship?
SADD is based on the idea of peer-to-peer education and support. While interning at DOT, I applied that philosophy to my work for the government. The most valuable experience I had was giving my input on projects and campaigns geared toward youth. This was important to me because, as a young person, I related on a much more personal level to the content being considered. Youth voice is essential to solving youth problems and, while interning at DOT, I had the opportunity to add my voice to the mix of officials and professionals who were working on issues that directly impacted me. And that’s definitely something I believe in.