At age 14, Connor Wallace had already been thinking about registering to vote.
Now, as senior at John Hancock College Preparatory High School, Wallace voted for the first time ever Thursday.
“It’s a big honor to be able to come out here now being 18 and to actually have my voice be heard,” Wallace said. “I feel like it’s been a long time coming.”
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Wallace arrived at the Chicago Early Voting Supersite at 191 N. Clark St. on Thursday afternoon with other first time voters from John Hancock, 5437 W 64th Place on the Southwest Side in the Clearing community. They’d come straight from school, cheering and waving colorful signs that read “First time voter,” “Immigrants are welcome here,” and “Equality for everyone!”
Called “Parade to the Polls,” the event was organized by Chicago Votes. They’ve been doing parades for years and are an official Chicago Public Schools partner, said Alex Boutros, community organizing manager. They led another parade earlier in the week for 27 students, she said.
The students cast their votes for the June 28 Illinois primary election. The general election is Nov. 8.
Boutros, 25, said it’s important for young people to make their voices heard. Those holding office may not prioritize the needs of youth when making decisions.
“So that’s why ... we’re just going to show up and take our space,” Boutros said.
After all, younger people are going to have to deal with those decisions down the line, she said.
And this will open doors not just for the students themselves, said Sofia Aranda, an intern with Chicago Votes’ Reimagining Democracy initiative. “It’s opened the door for their friends, their families, whoever they want to bring with them, and then other students” who might see their classmates voting and want to go too, she said.
Melany Tinoco, a senior at John Hancock, said that was one of the reasons she wanted to come vote in the first place: to inspire others to do the same.
She was nervous and wasn’t sure what to expect. She knew other people might be nervous too.
But “by me doing this,” she said, “it might encourage somebody else to want to come and vote because they see ‘oh this teenage girl came out to vote so if it wasn’t that hard for her, it shouldn’t be that hard for me.”
Tinoco is passionate about immigrant and LGBTQ rights and mental health awareness, she said. She likes to stay informed on those issues and do research.
“I knew that I wanted to vote for something or someone that is going to help improve that,” Tinoco said.