Youth Political Action Committee already making change happen

Jeremy Ornstein, Raider Times staff

Some say that politics is only for those who can vote. Here in Watertown High School, however, students deny such a concept. Driven by a desire to get involved in the community, Isaac Gibbons, then a sophomore, called up his state rep, Jon Hecht.

“I told him, I want to get politically involved, but I can’t find a good organization,” Isaac said. “He told me I should just start something myself.” 

We don’t constrain ourselves to the opportunities given to us, we create opportunities.”


So, Isaac talked to a few other people he thought would feel the same way, and the Youth Political Action Committee was formed.

To avoid alienating potential activists of contrasting political philosophies, YPAC remains nonpartisan. Its official goal, similar to that of Isaac’s original one, is to get involved, organize other students in political endeavors, and to educate students about the importance of state and local government.

They are continuing to expand as a club, but don’t function a whole lot like the other clubs in the school. Instead of working at school, they call government officials, or plan events at each others’ houses, using Facebook to plan meetings. They aren’t even limited there, however. The freedom they have as a club means that if they’re interested in an institution, or a person, they don’t have to ask permission from the school or their advisor — they can just show up! As Isaac, the informal leader, says, “We don’t constrain ourselves to the opportunities given to us, we create opportunities.”

YPAC is making a political difference even now. Driven by Watertown’s status as an incredibly diverse city — economically, ethnically, and religiously — YPAC has pursued issues that Watertown has a unique perspective on.

Watertown is full of recent immigrants from all over the world, and many students at WHS do not use English as their first language. The ESL program is designed to help teach students the subjects they need to graduate. Currently, the ESL program in use is Sheltered English Instruction, which uses English in the core classrooms, immersing students in an English environment.

Jeffrey Sanchez, a state rep from Jamaica Plain, introduced a bill, popularly referred to as LOOK, that gives schools more freedom in their ESL  programs. It would allow schools to use bilingual instruction, for example, a “language acquisition program,” or even sign language to help teach students who don’t know English.

While YPAC doesn’t all-out support LOOK, it supports the debate surrounding the issue, and is working to hold a forum in Watertown with state officials to talk about the legislation.

YPAC has also worked with the civics class, giving those students a few bits of information, including a Pew Research online test that identifies political leanings. The club has taken a bus down to the newly formed Edward M. Kennedy Institute, went through the museum, and did all of the simulations. Now, YPAC is attempting to get a field trip to the museum for a larger school group, talking with the principal and superintendent to get that accomplished.

If any student feels political, the way to join is simple: Find YPAC on Facebook or talk to Isaac or any of the other members and start politicking! The opportunity is here; to make a difference regarding any local, or perhaps even national issue.

The Youth Political Action Committee is here in Watertown, already making change happen.

–Jan. 28, 2016–