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Democracy in Action: A Student's Experience as a First-Time Voter

March 15, 2023
By Matthew Kolsti '23

Editor's Note: This story appears in the Winter 2023 edition of Reflections.  Click here to read the entire publication online.

Matthew Kolsti '23

I have always had an interest in the way our world works. Since I was a little kid, I would read and watch videos about all kinds of random, but strangely fascinating things, such as where the trash goes, what happens to my money after I buy something, or how race cars can go so fast. I was always curious to learn about things and find out how they affected me, or even how I can affect them. So, as I got older and gained a greater understanding and appreciation of the world, it was natural I became interested in politics and how our government works.

What really had me counting down the days until the 2022 Midterms was how dependent our government is on the participation of the people: me.  I would be able to impact real issues that directly make a difference in many people’s lives. I soon realized that in order to make a positive impact, I would need to make informed decisions in who I choose to vote for.  I would need to understand all the facts surrounding an issue and have the ability to argue for myself with credible evidence. When I came to this realization I still felt I had a lot to learn. This is where Archbishop Carroll High School comes in.

I took two classes that I believe did more than enough to make me an informed voter. The first, AP U.S History, I took my sophomore year. While much of the time it was a rigorous, tiring class that made me consider visiting the guidance counselor’s office, I know with hindsight that in reality, it is one of the best things I could have done. It provided so much context and knowledge about many of the issues we face today. It’s impossible to understand current events without understanding the events of the past, and APUSH absolutely helped me to do that. The passion of my teacher, Mr. [Erik] Ramsey ‘93 also fueled my enthusiasm to learn more.

The following year, my junior year, I took AP Government with Mr. [Chris] Sorrell ‘83. I could go on and on about the great things this class and this teacher did for me as a student, voter, and a person, but in short it helped me to apply what I had learned the year before. I learned the processes of our government, and exactly the means through which I was able to express my newly formed perspectives. I also understood the ways other people have been expressing their own perspectives and how I can join them. By the time I had completed the AP test, I felt I was ready to go to the polls and make an informed, positive impact.

After I voted for the first time, I was thrilled to finally be able to participate in something I have become so invested in. I felt that while it was one measly vote, it was an informed, educated, and passionate one. I was now a part of how our government works. The next day I went to tell Mr. Sorrell that I had voted, and he said something along the lines of, “And you’ll keep coming back.”

He’s right.

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