Amid the pomp, ceremony and celebration of Eaglecrest High School's homecoming assembly, Josh Rasp was silent, stoic and meditative.
Rasp, a 17-year-old senior, stood with his hands clasped behind his back in the Eaglecrest gym on Sept. 30 as the din of school spirit blared all around him. Cheerleaders performed acrobatic feats, the school band blasted orchestrated covers of pop songs and the hundreds of students in the stands cheered, sang and stomped with enough volume to spur many adults in attendance to hold their hands over their ears.
Rasp stayed cool. The assembly represented a different kind of celebration for Rasp, one that rooted in his hard work over the past year to encourage his fellow Eaglecrest students to do their civic duty.
Colorado Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert was on hand at the assembly to formally present Rasp with the 2016 Eliza Pickrell Routt Award for Outstanding Voter Registration Efforts. The prize, named after one of Colorado's most accomplished pioneers for women's suffrage in the 19th century, recognized Rasp's work with the civic nonprofit program Inspire Colorado to successfully register 85 percent of Eaglecrest seniors to vote.
"This is a unique, student-driven effort," Staiert said. "It's a student getting other students excited about voting."
It was a selfless labor for Rasp, who won't be eligible to vote in a presidential election until 2020. Rasp's work that consisted of manning informational tables and making repeated visits to classrooms at Eaglecrest was all about inspiring older students.
"A high percentage of young people aren't getting their voices heard as much," said Rasp, whose interest in the upcoming election began last year, when a representative from Inspire Colorado visited his government class. Rasp said that the nonprofit, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to registering high school and college students seemed like an interesting vehicle to get engaged in the civic process and build up valuable skills. "I thought this would be a good thing; I've started paying a lot more attention to local issues."
Rasp's activism yielded real results. His efforts resulted in the registration of about 500 students, or about 85 percent of the graduating class. He attributes that success to persistence, as well as the lure of a simple but powerful message about democracy.
"When students were registering, I told them a story that was told to me during our three-day academy at Regis University over the summer," Rasp said earlier this year. "There have been elections for mayors and other positions that have a huge impact on our daily lives that were decided by one vote. I tried to emphasize the importance of local elections in addition to the presidential election."
That sense of activism and urgency made Rasp an ideal nominee for the Eliza Pickrell Routt Award, as well as a fitting candidate to carry on the legacy of the honor's namesake. Routt was a tireless advocate for women's rights in the late 19th century and was the first woman to register to vote in the state of Colorado.
"It's really cool. (Routt) was brave. She got to do something first," Rasp said. "We've got to get out there and show young people how important voting is."