Democracy is meant to give everyday citizens a voice — a say in what happens in the country. There are many ways to exercise the rights you have as a U.S. citizen including voting in elections, running for office yourself or supporting candidates in various ways. Check out the slideshow below to find out specific ways you can get involved and make a difference.
Since we're starting with the political process, think about ways you can get involved with local or even state elections close to come. Have a favorite candidate? Find their website and get in touch with their volunteer coordinator. You'll be welcome, and you might be tasked with putting up lawn signs, making phone calls (yes, you can do this from your cell phone at home!) or handing out campaign materials at a mall or a football game.
Even if you don't have a favorite candidate, you can get in touch with your local republican, democratic, or your chosen political party and they're sure to find you something to do.
Bonus: If your candidate or party wins, you'll likely be invited to the victory party.
O.K., so we're not exactly suggesting you nominate yourself to be the junior senator from Ohio, but there are plenty of opportunities to run for office in your school, and some school districts even have a student representative on their school board.
Bonus: A good college application is made even better when you can show that your peers see you as a leader.
If you live in or near your state capital, find out when sessions are open to the public and then go check it out. If you like what you see, many states have programs for high school students that allow them to work as pages in house or senate chambers.
If you're feeling like an experience on the national level, get involved with The Close Up Foundation, which helps students travel to Washington D.C. and provides unique access to monuments and lawmakers. Are you a junior? You can apply to be a House of Representatives page and spend an entire semester or summer in Washington seeing the government in action.
Bonus: You get paid.
In our three-branch system of government, the media is sometimes referred to as the fourth estate because it's the role of journalists to report to the people what lawmakers are up to.
Reporting for a paper or student TV network gives you the opportunity to tell the story behind school policies and influence the people who ultimately make the decisions about your school and community. You might even get the opportunity to editorialize and get your opinion out there where it can have an impact.
Bonus: Your first byline is something to be proud of!