Prescott Indivisible is once again pleased to welcome the viewpoint of our intern, Toby Chang. A 15-year-old student from Prescott, Toby provides us with a monthly column that includes his insights, analysis, and commentary on political events and issues that offer up his perspective as a member of today’s Gen Z youth. Toby provides a much-needed voice for his generation and offers important input on the issues confronting today’s youth and on how his generation views many of the issues and concerns facing all of us in these times.
September 2023: Updates on The Youth Perspective
The Youth Perspective has been M.I.A. for most of this year. As I’m settling into my final year of high school, I’d like to revisit, and briefly shed some light as to what exactly I’ve been committing my time and energy.
My passion for state and national policy continues to thrive; I will keep striving to defend the values that we hold dear: accountability, the freedom to express, free and fair elections, and the right to an education, to name a few; just as the Indivisible Project has done, and continues to do.
In the past year, however, I’ve zoomed in on the scope of the impact of my work, focusing on the issues our students face in our schools. One of these efforts has been with student groups, including BASIS Prescott’s National Honor Society chapter, which I had the opportunity to preside over. Through efforts to reorganize, we were able to heighten how much service we gave to our community. Noticing problems in previous years with spreading work across the whole group, I restructured sub-committees with clear responsibilities, ultimately making communication and accountability much more efficient. It was a valuable experience leading students through an effort to improve internally.
Another group I’ve worked with is MATFORCE—an anti-substance abuse coalition located in Prescott Valley. With the support of their youth council, we campaigned against teen vaping, warned against underage drinking, and raised awareness for fentanyl; all very real threats against the youth in our county. The peer-to-peer programs we hosted connected us directly with middle school students who often do not have access to prevention resources until it’s too late.
Working on a school-focused level allowed me to absorb many unique perspectives, and understand the nuance even within youth, from school to school, and from community to community. I’m grateful to have had the chance to work on the ground floor and grow as a leader. But there’s always a lingering thought in the back of my head, telling me that more could have been done.
It is easy to get caught up in the importance of the work we do, because of how truly vital it is to our community. So much so, that perhaps we sometimes overlook our own health and well-being. As a student, developing the skill of balancing is a necessary ingredient of success. If our lives at home and with our friends are not in good shape, that translates into our academic abilities.
I believe this also to be true for our work as advocates and leaders. For a long time, I had prioritized my work over my being: pulling all-nighters to finish articles, neglecting loved ones, and berating myself for not doing enough. Long-term, this crippled my ability to meet deadlines, to write as well as I knew I could, and overall damaged both the results of my work and my health.
Particularly over the summer, I put in an effort to decontaminate, literally and metaphorically. I set up systems for myself to stay organized. I developed routines to stay structured and motivated. Exercises, including meditations, to maintain energy and strength throughout the day to work on the projects I’m passionate about, including The Youth Perspective. It’s not normally my writing style, but I’d really like to encourage everyone to check in on yourselves, and see if you are optimizing the time and effort given to the noble fight of defending democracy.
Toby Chang is a student at BASIS Prescott with a passion for civic government and politics. Early on in his life, he was exposed to the partisanship and division that has overrun our media, shaping his values on unity and civil discourse.
As a teenager, Chang knows how easy it is for young people to feel voiceless and powerless to take action against the issues that impact them. He believes that equipping them with the opportunities and skills to be civically engaged is the key to securing the future of our democracy.