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I am a 20 year-old journalist who cares about the issues that affect my generation. My mission is to make a difference by motivating young people to think and become aware of important issues through my videos and films. I have a passion for covering live events as they happen, and have always been fascinated by how media can connect us with history in the making.
As far back as I can remember, I understood how media has the power to influence social action and politics. In 3rd grade I stayed up all night to watch the dramatic 2000 presidential election returns. As I filled in my “score card” of electoral votes, and saw how the media was reporting the historic swing vote, I realized that reporting and news was “the place to be,” and knew then that I had to be part of that process. When I was 12 years old, I launched Cat Eat Cat Productions, Inc. to produce short films, public service announcements, video messages, and news packages related to politics and social causes.
When I was 15, I was stunned how apathetic young people seemed about the upcoming 2008 presidential election so I took my camera around to interview college students. It was early in the primary season, and many of them told me that they didn’t have time to follow the candidates or issues and they probably wouldn’t register or vote. I just couldn’t believe that anyone who was becoming eligible to vote wouldn’t exercise their constitutional right to make their voice heard! I thought if only the candidates could speak directly to young people about what they care about, they would be more involved.
Determined to get access to the candidates, I worked some of my contacts to get into the Republican and Democratic forums and debates. With persistence, I got into the “spin rooms” and jumped in there with my camera and microphone, competing with the “big boys” for sound bites. I asked each of the candidates to speak directly to young people about why it was important for them to register and vote. I edited together the footage from my interviews with both candidates and college students, and created a short documentary called “Virgin Voting.” That was my way of motivating young voters – even though at 15, I still couldn’t vote!
“Virgin Voting” generated a lot of attention and publicity. I donated DVDs of the film to high schools from Miami to Hawaii, and built a website called Virgin Voting. I made T-shirts that said “Never Forget Your First Time,” and created a “Doin’ It For the Very First Time” YouTube video contest. Late in 2008, when I went to New York to cover the last presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, CNN asked me to report on young people’s reactions to the debate. After that appearance, CNN asked me to be their “special youth political correspondent.” I produced a dozen news packages for CNN as well as appearing live on air commenting on the issues young people care about.
Since then, I have served as an activist for people with intellectual disabilities by producing events and PSAs for Special Olympics. I have also produced events and PSAs examining the crisis in funding for public education and our first amendment right to protest.
I continue to report on CNN about issues and subjects that are relevant to young people, including the launch of the iPhone 4. I even shared my experience voting for the first time on CNN in a video I made from my freshman dorm room at American University in Washington DC.
As I continue my studies at American University, I am expanding my Virgin Voting Project for the 2012 elections. I am excited to have a “front row seat” to government and be a leader in youth involvement in politics in Washington. I look forward to reporting on issues that are important to young people, encouraging more of them to get involved, and motivating them to vote.