Josh Rasp will have to wait until 2020 to cast his vote in a presidential election.
Rasp, a 17-year-old junior at Eaglecrest High School, will narrowly miss the age cutoff when the nation heads to the polls in November. Even so, he's found a viable and impactful way to contribute to his democracy in 2016. Working with the civic nonprofit program Inspire Colorado, Rasp has worked for months to encourage his fellow students to register to vote.
Through a trial-and-error process that saw Rasp manning informational tables and making repeated visits to classrooms, he's convinced about 500 Eaglecrest seniors to register to vote.
"I ended up doing 36 presentations in classrooms, and a lot of classes I hit twice," Rasp said. "A lot of the times, a lot of kids didn't seem as in to it the first time. I'd go again and say, 'Seriously, the election is coming up.' We made sure to make the process pretty easy."
Rasp's interest in the upcoming election began last year, when a representative from Inspire Colorado visited his government class. The nonprofit, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to registering high school and college students, seemed like an interesting way to get engaged in the civic process and build up valuable skills.
What followed was a trial-and-error effort, one that saw successes and failures.
"It was a good learning experience … I learned to be a better public speaker," Rasp said. "We tried a couple of things that didn't work so well, like setting up tables in the school. But I learned as I went from our classroom presentations – that was the way. We finally got some people registered."
That claim is a bit humble. Rasp surpassed his own goal of registering 85 percent of the senior class; his efforts resulted in the registration of about 500 students, or about 90 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 recalled. "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 message hasn't been lost on Rasp, who won't wait until a presidential election year to make his voice heard.
"I'll definitely be voting in next year's elections," he said. "I'll stay civically involved, whether it's through registering people to vote or whatever else. I'll see what opportunities I get and take them."