KATE DE GROOTE, 17
Kate De Groote, from West Valley City, Utah, is a passionate youth activist who works to create a world that is more equitable and understanding. She is very active in her community, and spends much time working to understand local issues, and improve them to the best of her abilities. She serves as the youth mayor of West Valley City and as part of the Youth Advisory Council to the State School Board. De Groote also loves to volunteer and spends much of her time at the Utah Refugee Education Center and working with the nonprofit Sumi Nungwa.
De Groote finds words to be incredibly empowering, and she believes that by harnessing the power of the voices of young people, true change could happen in the world. She is an avid proponent of investigative journalism, and she spends hours going through reports from the Washington Post or New York Times. De Groote hopes to lend her own voice to the journalism arena in the coming years, whether it is through op-eds or reports.
Recently, De Groote helped to organize the Utah Climate Strike, as part of the international Fridays for Future movement, a movement that began in August 2018 when 15-year-old Greta Thunberg sat in front of the Swedish parliament every school-day for three weeks to protest against the lack of action on the climate crisis. De Groote is also very active in speech and National History Day, and she loves to investigate her historical obsessions (ranging from the Titanic to the resistance movement in Vichy France).
As a senior in high school, De Groote plans on attending college next fall. She hopes to study government and economics, with a citation in Chinese, and use these subjects in her future career in international relations.
by Kate De Groote
I sat in front of my state school board with my prepared speech on student representation in hand. As I looked out into the sea of board members and started to present my beliefs that the youth voice matters, I could quickly see a shift in expressions. Half of the room became enthusiastic, while the other half took on the mood of, “Why are we giving this student a platform?” I was speaking on the importance of creating a student advisory council to the state school board as there were no opportunities for students to voice their opinions at this level. To me, this seemed like a very logical idea, and many on the board agreed. However, I also received pushback from those who didn’t understand why they needed a student’s input. As I continued to work to convince these members of the importance of student’s voices, I realized just how influential my own voice can be if I have the courage to speak out.
The voices of students and young people have long been ignored in the political circuit. I have been told that giving students influence would be tyranny (though it is actually the opposite), and that I was too young to know anything of value. This is far from the truth, but I didn’t know how to tell the people in power that. I instead decided to show that I was worthy of my voice being valued, so I continued to tell the school board why my voice and the voices of other students would help them understand the issues the students actually experience in school. Luckily, using my voice worked
If one can take anything from the past year, it is that the youth are more educated and more passionate than ever before about politics. The March for Our Lives movement spurred hundreds of thousands of youth to action and many groups. such as Eighteenx18, encouraged youth to vote in the midterm elections. These aren’t movements that die out, but instead create a generation of informed citizens.
I imagine a future where these students that walked out of school to protest senseless gun violence now have seats in congress and are creating tangible change. I imagine a future where climate justice activists become members of the Natural Resources Committee and protect the fragility of our planet. It’s a future that truly gives me hope.
If there is anything I can say, it’s that the voice of students matter. If legislators and those in power can take a chance on us and believe that we have powerful input, then I am confident that the future will be bright. We won’t have to wait until we can hold public office, as these officials will already be listening to Generation Z voices. I saw this firsthand as the Student Advisory Council was put into action. Each month, our meetings are filled with representatives from different departments and offices that want the input of students. It’s become so much more than just the existence of student voices at a state level. We’ve shown how valuable our opinions are, and it encourages me to keep fighting for student influence at all levels of government. After all, the youth are the future.