As a student at Lawrenceville during the 2016 presidential election, James Wellemeyer ’18 noticed something. His friends wanted to vote and be engaged in politics, but many had not registered to vote and did not know how to register. Additionally, he observed that curriculum in many civics or political science classes, while covering important historical documents like the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, didn’t include practical information about how to be actively involved in politics as a young person.
So he took the reporting skills he’d honed while working at The Lawrence
and got to work. Wellemeyer researched young people involved in politics, reached out to them for interviews and, supported by a Welles Grant
, compiled the information into a civics e-textbook focused on youth political involvement called Young Voices
Wellemeyer then took his project a step further and reached out to schools around the country about adopting the curriculum. Today the text is used in over 40 schools.
In recognition of his efforts, Wellemeyer was recently named one of 30 2019 Three Dot Dash Global Teen Leaders
by the We Are Family Foundation. Representing 14 countries on six continents, the teen awardees were selected for their efforts to address some of the world’s most pressing issues.
Later this spring, Wellemeyer will join fellow recipients in New York City for a summit where they will will be matched with mentors who will help the teens take their projects to the next level.
“It’s also a great opportunity to meet other young people doing really great work and engage in discussions about work you do and how to improve,” he says.
Wellemeyer has been living in Washington, D.C., this past year, interning for publications including The Hill and the Washington Blade. He plans to enroll at Columbia University next year and pursue studies in journalism.
“I see myself going into journalism and media with a focus on politics,” he says. “With the civics textbook I want to pursue civic engagement work.”
“I think my time at The Lawrence was really impactful,” he adds, “not only in writing the civics textbook but (also because) The Lawrence is a weekly paper. It was a challenge to do it outside of classes and it made me a very focused and motivated person.”
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