Living in New Hampshire where the average age is 43 (the second oldest state in the U.S.), I have been the youngest person in many of the rooms I walk into. Sometimes I think this dynamic keeps me feeling young even as I creep into my mid-thirties. More often though, the position of the token young person leaves me wondering who is providing a young perspective in the many rooms across New Hampshire that don’t have a young voice. Stay Work Play does a lot of work to be that voice, but they cannot do it alone, which is why the Stay Work Play Advocacy Network (SWPAN) was developed.
One of those more senior-weighted rooms is perhaps the most important room in the state, our State Capital. The average age in the New Hampshire legislature is 60! Now I value the experience that comes from 60 years on this Earth, I have great respect for my elders. However, in an aging state that needs more young people to ensure a viable and healthy future, it isn’t reassuring that most of the decision-makers are closer to retirement than college graduation. That difference in perspective translates to a difference in legislative priorities too and as the saying goes:
If you are not at the table then you are on the menu.”
While we are fortunate that a handful of young legislators and Stay Work Play are at the table and focused on the issues that are important to young people, in order to see substantial results, we need to do more. Stay Work Play has done the research, convened young people all over New Hampshire, and facilitated the discussions to identify the most important issues for young people. In every corner of the state young people are concerned with the same things – affordable housing, student loan debt, outdoor recreation and conservation, access to affordable childcare, and creating an inclusive anti-racist culture in New Hampshire. These issues impact young people in a very different way than they do someone who is, let’s say, 60. Thus, it is vital that we provide our input.
Our band of young legislators and Stay Work Play cannot carry the torch on these issues alone, we all need to step up and speak for ourselves. That is where the Stay Work Play Advocacy Network (SWPAN) comes in!
Young people have jobs, young children (or dogs) to raise, and busy inflexible lives that prevent us from providing our perspective to every legislative discussion in Concord. By volunteering with the SWPAN a few hours a month for six months a year you can ensure that your legislators hear your voice loud and clear before they cast a vote on a bill that impacts young people.
What You Can Do to Help
By volunteering with the SWPAN you will join a community of engaged young leaders in your region who want to take action. The SWPAN provides the toolbox and you choose which tool works for you. That may mean calling your representatives, writing a letter to the editor, or sometimes providing testimony (written or spoken) at the State House. The SWPAN will train you, update you on legislation, tell you when votes will take place, and make sure you know how to reach your representatives so that you can join forces with the volunteers in your region to take action.
The first volunteer training for SWPAN volunteers will be on Tuesday, March 23 at 5:30pm via Zoom – find the link to register here. Join the young leaders from every corner of the state who have already signed up to have a stronger voice in Concord by registering as an advocate volunteer in the SWPAN. Even if you can’t make the training on March 23, sign up anyways and the SWPAN will make arrangements to train you.
This is our chance to take a seat at the table, sign up to volunteer and learn more about how the SWPAN will work!