Freshman engineering student Grant Jirka represents young adults’ voices in politics as director of media on the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council, an initiative to establish a group to represent the opinions of young adults in national political discussions. The effort is currently garnering support from Congress and youth throughout the country to make the council a reality. The Chronicle spoke with Jirka about his role on the campaign and how he sees the initiative progressing in the coming years.
The Chronicle: What is the Presidential Youth Council? What are its general goals?
Grant Jirka: We are still in campaign phase, but once it is established it will be a group of 24 members ages 16 to 24. The leadership will be appointed by members of both parties in the House [of Representatives] and the Senate. Its goals are to advise the president and Congress about issues of youth in the United States and, hopefully, create change for youth in Congress.
As of right now, the Presidential Youth Council doesn’t have a say in the federal government and that’s something we hope to change to have our voices heard. We have a lot of good things to say... we are trying to change youth’s input in government to have that be heard to create change for youths across the nation.
TC: What types of issues is the Presidential Youth Council interested in addressing?
GJ: We will have listening discussions across the country to foster discussion about certain issues that youth have across country and then pass those along to the president. There are a lot of factors we’d look at, like education reform, how to decrease the number of truant students and alcohol and tobacco regulation.... We would be getting input from youth around the country about what they view as important to be changed.
Right now I’m the director of media and I’ve created a Facebook page, Twitter page and I’m creating a blog currently. I am trying to use social media to our advantage. Listening sessions will be a big priority—having our members go across the country and get input that way. The numbers of the council [representatives] would be geographically and socioeconomically distributed throughout the country to hit all parts of America to have the most equal way for all members of the country to be represented.
TC: Do you have an idea about when the council will be established?
GJ: I’m not exactly sure right now. We have support in the House [of Representatives] and the Senate. We introduced a Senate and House resolution this past year, so we have support. We are just trying to raise funds now. We are possibly getting $100,000 for the campaign, but we only have $15,000 raised [so far]. We are trying to raise funds and line up other people to donate to the campaign. So I’m not exactly sure when [the Presidential Youth Council] will start yet—I couldn’t give you a firm date.
TC: How did you get involved with the Presidential Youth Council?
GJ: I am from Nebraska, I am on the Nebraska Governor’s Youth Council. Someone on the [Nebraska Governor Youth] council mentioned that the Presidential Youth Council was starting a year ago and there was a conference call to see if people were interested. I said, ‘Yeah, I think this is a good idea—email me,’ and in April 2012 I got involved with the Council.... I got really involved from there and I’m on the leadership team now as director of media.
TC: How have you balanced your Duke education with the Presidential Youth Council?
GJ: With all things you love to do, you get them done, and you spend a lot of time doing them. I’ve been able to balance everything and make sure I get everything done. It’s just a balancing act, and with anything in life, that’s just what you have to learn to do.
TC: How many people are on the leadership team?
GJ: There are about 15 people on the leadership team. We are making different committees. I just started the board of directors and filled the role as director of media this past month.
TC: How many people are on the leadership team?
GJ: It would be capped at 24. Larger than that and it would be a giant, hectic organization.
TC: What would you say to individuals hoping to get involved with the Council?
GJ: There are two things we like to tell people who ask us that question. One thing is that we have a campus ambassador program. Essentially they recruit other people to join the campaign and raise awareness about it and get people to write to their congressmen. The other thing we have that we just started is that we are having people join committees that the leadership team is running, so people would join my media team and help me write blogs.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.