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Gen Z Student Makes Her Voice Heard on Special SRL Elections Panel

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Learn more about PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs here.

Cassia Ramelb is passionate about politics. A senior at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School, she uses her voice to advocate for the policies she believes in and to encourage people to vote, even though she can’t cast a ballot yet!

Cassia was one of four students who participated in the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs special event,  “Face the Facts: Election 2020 Youth Town Hall.” These Gen Z students had a conversation with NBC’s Savannah Sellers about voting, divisiveness in politics, and what issues matter to them most. Read Cassia’s reflection about her experience on the panel!

Cassia Ramelb is the copy editor at her school's student newspaper, The Pearl Post. |

With days inching closer to the big Election, I needed to make my voice heard to other young people, even if it was just virtually.

As a highly involved youth activist, unable to vote, opportunities to reach out to adults and first-time voters are much more limited. Thankfully, with the assistance of my journalism advisor, I joined the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL) and MediaWise teams to share my story with a world full of adults at the  “Face the Facts: Election 2020 Youth Town Hall.”

Coming up on Nov. 3, thousands of first-time voters will be casting their ballots on Election Day. Being a 17-year-old and a part of Generation Z, political candidates and voters tend to bypass youth voices in the belief we are uninformed of the ways of government.

SRL is dedicated to getting voices like mine heard. I first voiced my concerns about the election on Snapchat during the Democratic Debate at Loyola Marymount University campus last December. In the months that have passed, I became more immersed in politics, as well as in civic engagement.

Preparing for the interview was a trip down memory lane, revisiting the events that led me to my involvement in the political world. In talking to Elis Estrada, the senior director of Student Reporting Labs, I opened up about previous political conversations and where I fall on the global political spectrum. In our joyous talk, my excitement grew to speak on the “Face the Facts: Election 2020 Youth Town Hall.”

On rehearsal day, I met the other first-time voter panelists from across the country, all with different views and a passion for politics. As Estrada went over the logistics for the panel, my heart began racing. I was scared that my thoughts wouldn’t be as important compared to the other students’ who are 18 and above. Once the ball was rolling, Estrada asked questions regarding our involvement and concerns for the government. In an instant, I was reassured my voice would be heard and valued while speaking with the other panelists.

Below watch Cassia participate in “Face the Facts: Election 2020 Youth Town Hall,” a town hall discussion hosted by PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL), in partnership with MediaWise.


Only two days after that I rushed home with glee from my driver’s test — which I passed — to finally film the real deal. Getting on the Zoom call, I met our host, Savannah Sellers from NBC, who was extremely vibrant and inviting. Once the soundchecks were clear, I realized it was a learning experience for all of us, even for the recording team.

Among the group of well-versed and intelligent students, I shared my truth and enhanced my own knowledge through their responses to the questions. Even though the views I align with were far from the other students,’ ultimately, we discovered we weren’t too different after all.

We especially connected on issues of race and different political views. I shared how I received anti-Black remarks and panelist Rebecca McKinney talked about losing friends over opposite political views. Unlike the unbridled conversations I've had with adults and even the ones we’ve seen in the debates, the three panelists and I respected one another’s thoughts without judgment and with accepting attitudes.

On Oct. 6, my phone pinged as my friends, family and even the SRL team posted photos of the town hall on their TV screens. My cheeks turned rosy red as my sister took photos in pride that her little sister spoke up for what she believes; my mom frantically called her friends so they could watch it themselves. Watching enthusiasm fill the other panelists’ eyes on the TV, I sat happily knowing I made new friends.

Unbeknown to me, the advisor who recommended I sign up for the town hall, sent the the panel video to faculty and staff at my school. I was so appreciative of the encouraging emails I received from my principal and teachers cheering me on.

Now, as if I wasn’t already, I am known as the girl most likely to become president. Thanks to the PBS, SRL and MediaWise team, I am only steps closer to having my voice heard in crowds of all ages. Even though I still can’t vote, just knowing I spoke for silent youths like me is motivation to keep going.

Watch Cassia give her thoughts on the importance of education as an election issue below.



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