Think young voters don't have power in this country? Think again.

The 2018 midterm elections are rapidly approaching, and many — especially first-time voters — believe that they will make an impact on our government.

After the devastating Parkland, Florida shooting in February, young people came out in droves to protest America’s existing gun laws and call on all lawmakers to do something about them. When little action was taken, the protestors threatened to unseat them in the 2018 midterm elections, saying that young voters will decide the outcome.

Photo via Unsplash/Jerry Kiesewetter.


While several polls suggest voters ages 18 to 29 are registering to vote this years in higher numbers than in previous midterm election years, it’s difficult to say whether or not those registering will actually cast their ballots this November.

That’s why young people across the country are making it a priority to inspire others, young and old, to use their voting power in these pivotal elections.

Not only are they helping newly eligible voters get properly registered, they’re also keeping the election a constant conversation in their community so it doesn’t lose its potency.

And, thanks to School the Vote, a campaign run by DoSomething.org, largest tech not-for-profit for young people and social change, these young voter registration members are making an even greater impact.

Here’s a look at four of them:

Lindsey Luis Washington from Vancouver, Washington is helping prospective voters weed through the fake news on their candidates.

Photo via Washington. Used with permission.

Even though she’s only 17, and not quite eligible to vote, she runs voter registration tables at her high school and in her town. She’s also part of a project called Democracy Now!, which plans to canvas the neighborhood and carpool voters to the polls on election day.

“I truly believe youth are the future. We are living in a time where what is occurring in this world affects each and every one of us in some way,” Lindsey writes in an email.

She recognizes that historically, young voters don’t turn out as much in midterm elections, but at the same time, the activism her generation’s sparked in response to the dissatisfaction with the status quo over the past two years has been extraordinary. Thanks to the internet and social media, they’re tuned in to the issues that affect them, and can see a direct path to making themselves heard.

However, Lindsey notes that the flood of information her generation receives daily can also work against them, especially when it comes to voting. It’s becoming harder and harder to separate genuine reporting from fake news, and as a result, they’ll end up sharing articles and opinions that skew the facts and incorrectly tarnish political candidates.

Of course, that’s hardly just a habit of Gen Z’s, but Lindsey’s doing what she can to curtail it by regularly fact-checking her own posts and the candidates she supports, and encouraging her peers to do likewise.

Megan Dombrowski from Detroit, Michigan is spreading the message that every vote really does matter.

Photo via Dombrowski. Used with permission.

Megan’s main motivation is to turn the enthusiasm she’s seeing among her peers into actual votes, because she knows that even a few hundred can swing an election. Like Lindsey, she’s manned registration tables, and keeping voting relevant through campaigns like “Get Out the Vote.”

“In the 2014, only 15% of voters aged 18-24 turned out to vote,” says Megan. “Our demographic is large enough to swing elections and elect representatives who are willing to listen to us. If we do not stand up and participate in our democracy, we have no right to complain about what is happening.”

Unfortunately, she feels like her generation is susceptible to the negative narrative around politics today, and that may dissuade them from voting.

“Many brush off elections as no big deal, and say that they’ll just vote for who their parents are voting for. It’s time for all of us to realize that our vote is our voice, and that everyone of ours’ is important.”

That said, she’s so grateful to be working with DoSomething to help more people realize the significance of voting. The organization’s incredibly user-friendly, and someone’s always available to answer questions, no matter how big or small.

Her ideal political system would include new voters being automatically registered, gerrymandering outlawed, and women, minorities, and young people running for office in record numbers. Thanks to women like her, that’s no longer out of reach.

Meanwhile, Amethyst O’Connell from Roseville, Minnesota is focusing on the college demographic, because they often need extra encouragement to vote.

Photo via Amethyst O'Connell. Used with permission.

Last year, as the Student Senate President of Saint Paul College, they were part of a massive statewide voter registration campaign on National Voter Registration Day that helped 1,313 people get registered.

Amethyst believes it’s incredibly important for students to vote because legislation, especially on the state level, can have a major impact on their education. They know this from first-hand experience:

“I graduated from Saint Paul College debt-free due to a pilot program, the Minnesota Occupational Grant program, that was signed into law by my state legislators,” writes Amethyst in an email.

However, despite what legislation like this has done for students, college life doesn’t make voting easy. For one thing, housing insecurity is a real issue, which can impede voter registration. And busy college students will often be turned away from voting booths because they don’t have up-to-date voter identification. Juggling class, work and other school responsibilities can be a major deterrent as well.

But Amethyst does their best to convince them why it’s worth navigating through all those obstacles so they can vote, especially in local elections.

“The elections that are the most likely to affect your day-to-day life are the local elections, and ironically, the elections that everyday people tend to ignore,” they explain.

Veniece Miller from Fruita, Colorado spearheaded a youth voting initiative in her small town, because she wants to get as many 18-year-olds to the polls as possible.

Photo via Veniece Miller. Used with permission.

With the help of the nonprofit, Western Colorado Alliance, she trained students in her community to hold voter registration drives in their schools. Now there are 25 student ambassadors holding drives this fall.

“If society has taught us anything in the past year, it is that students can make a real difference. They are engaged, knowledgeable, and ready to take part in our right as citizens of the United States,” writes Veniece in an email.

Unfortunately, she notes that civics is woefully underrepresented in our country’s education system, so many voting age youths won't even learn about the voting process until well after an election.

“Youth can feel the imposter effect; like they are not knowledgeable enough or qualified enough to vote,” she explains.

So Veniece is raising awareness by getting as many 16-year-olds pre-registered to vote as she can, so they’re primed when they become eligible to vote. She’s also helping young voters see how quick and easy the registration process is.

“A short one hundred years ago, my gender did not have the right to vote. An even shorter 49 years ago, my age did not have the right. I feel a great sense of responsibility to those that have gone before me that have fought and gained the right for me to vote.”

We are coming to a pivotal moment in our country’s history where our youngest voters could change the landscape of our government. With youth leaders like these, the chances are looking good.

“The more youth that vote, the more voice we are gaining, saying to our representatives that we are here and holding them accountable,” writes Veniece.

But that responsibility isn’t not just up to them, it’s up to all of us to show up if we want things to change.

Learn more and register to vote in just two minutes at DoSomething.org.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via Wikimedia Commons and Goalsetter

America's ethnic wealth gap is a multi-faceted problem that would take dramatic action, on multiple fronts, to overcome. One of the ways to help communities improve their economic well-being is through financial literacy.

Investopedia says there are five primary sources of financial education—families, high school, college, employers, and the military — and that education and household income are two of the biggest factors in predicting whether someone has a high level of financial literacy.

New Orleans Saints safety, two-time Super Bowl Champion, and social justice activist Malcolm Jenkins and The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation hope to help bridge the wealth gap by teaching students about investing at a young age.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.