Teen Poll Worker Realizes Civic Purpose
By Csaba Sukosd | November 10, 2022
A southeast Ohio teen is proof you don't have to be 18 to make a difference on Election Day.
Grady Palmer is a 17-year-old high school student in Monroe County who served as a poll worker on Tuesday as part of the Youth at the Booth program. The election initiative - created by the Secretary of State - gives students the opportunity to be part of the voting process before they can cast a ballot.
"The ability for everyone to make change and contribute to something larger than them is what really drives me and motivates me to want to do this," said Palmer, a senior at River High School in Hannibal.
Palmer got the idea from his government teacher, Amy Shreve, who has taught civic education at the high school for the past decade. Her main goal is to expand students' thinking of what's possible, whether it's considering different perspectives on current events or how teens can become civically engaged.
"I'm just trying to get them to be informed and try to be a part of something bigger," said Shreve. "It gives them a sense of purpose."
Palmer first worked the polls for the primary election in May. He was drawn to the opportunity because of how much he values the right to vote. The experience allowed him to realize how pivotal election officials are in the process, and compelled him to volunteer for the general election, as well.
"I think it's extremely important that everyone has a voice," Palmer said. "Voting gives us the ability to be heard and make change," Palmer said.
Palmer's service has benefits beyond civic duty. Eligible students who are 17 and 18 years old, have finished their junior year, and completed four hours of training can earn up to $150 for their day's work. Participants can also receive extra school credit, community service hours, and a boost to their college applications.
"It fills my heart when teens get involved because they get a better understanding of the roles they can play as citizens," said Mollie Landefeld, director for the Monroe County Board of Elections. "Students are also great at handling new technology from sign-ins to the voting machines."
Youth at the Booth can also spark students to do even more for their communities. It's one reason Palmer is leaning toward a career in civic education. His experience at the polls and in his government class have inspired him to become a high school social studies teacher. The chance to "mold and shape students for the future" is the main reason he wants to be an educator. Helping others have a say about their futures through voting is why Palmer plans to work the polls for years to come.
"I love to see everyone contribute, and I love guiding others to take part in such an important process," Palmer said.