Pinewood and Elections: Students Get Involved In Government

Freshman Soha Budhani didn’t think about politics. Before this past spring, she didn’t care about candidates’ policies or their names. Budhani left the elections to her parents — as most 13-year-olds might do. 

“My family has been voting for Anna [Eshoo, the congressional Democratic representative for the 18th district of California] for a very long time, and I never realized there was anything wrong with her,” Budhani said. “But once I decided to become involved, I realized all of the things she does — or, rather, doesn’t do.” 

Prompted to make a larger impact on her community and learn more about what is going on in the world, Budhani started researching the candidates for this year’s midterm election. She learned that Eshoo’s policies did not actually align with her own values and her family’s values. She also found that, like herself, many of the adults in her life are not politically informed. 

This led Budhani to attend a talk by Rishi Kumar, a tech executive and Saratoga City Council member, who is now running against Eshoo for congress. After meeting Kumar, she applied for an internship with his campaign and got in. 

As an intern, Budhani goes door-to-door to talk to people about the campaign, sends emails, and makes calls for Kumar.

“I have learned so much from just talking to people,” Budhani said. “I get to know his supporters and why they support him.” 

Budhani has now been interning with Kumar for over six months and has become deeply involved in the world of politics at the district level. While she cannot vote yet, she stresses the importance of youth involvement in politics. 

“It is really important to know who you’re voting for,” Budhani said. “Even though I can’t vote myself, I know that these candidates and their policies affect my community.”

While Budhani makes a difference in politics by helping Kumar, junior Alex Randall makes an impact at the local level with the Los Altos Hills Youth Commission. The commission is a local group of seventh to 12th graders who advise the Los Altos Hills Town Council on teen and youth issues. As treasurer, Randall raises money through local events and fundraisers. 

“We have movie nights and the Los Altos Hills Hoedown that we put on for the town,” Randall said. “We make money from selling popcorn, drinks, and food at these events and use that money to help grow our commission or put it towards a cause.” 

At the school level, junior Rohan Parasnis is one of the founders of the Pinewood Model United Nations (U.N.) club. Model U.N. is a student organization that stages discussions and debates mirroring the real-world United Nations. The club meets with delegations from local schools to discuss political topics and global issues while posing as representatives of the countries in the real Model U.N. 

Last year, the Model U.N. club did a virtual conference where students from different schools came together to discuss a future scenario of expansion on Mars. Representing different countries, the delegation came to agreements over hypothetical land, laws, and finances surrounding the actions of their “countries.” 

“I think it really gives you a deeper understanding of politics and a hands-on experience,” Parasnis said. “This is one of the most accessible ways for students to learn how the world works.” 

Through Model U.N., Parasnis became aware of the need for youth to engage in local and global politics and to become more politically aware. 

“There’s not that many ways in which we as teenagers can get that involved in politics,” Parasnis said. “But, we are the future of today’s global stage.”