by Bella DeVaan
“Not interested!” the man huffed, a frown furrowing his brow. The wind created by his emphatic slam of the door ruffled our hair as we stood back, sheepish.
A few houses in to canvassing for King County Proposition 1: Best Starts for Kids, the response to our bright red “Invest in Kids” t-shirts and eager smiles was tepid at best. Besides wedging informational pamphlets underneath welcome mats, my canvassing partner and I had yet to engage in friendly dialogue or gauge community interest. I felt invasive and unwelcome. And then the rain started, drenching us in typical Seattle fashion. Great.
As a newly-minted Save the Children Action Network Student Ambassador, it was my first time canvassing. Months earlier, I’d traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend Save the Children Action Network’s Advocacy Summit and spoke with members of Congress about the importance of investing in kids.
These folks, who’d dedicated their lives to public service and the well-being of the next generation, were highly receptive to our message. But I wasn’t encountering a similar enthusiasm out in quiet, residential streets while we canvassed, and it was jarring. I knew that my ambassadorship required an ability to make messages resonate within my community—through signature gathering, community event-hosting and persuasive sharing—and that my misestimating was a consequence of isolation and unfamiliarity. I had to understand my region’s response to the issues I cared so deeply about. So I doubled down, beating on and kept knocking on those doors.
Sure enough, positive interactions came with time and luck. We had a great chat with a first-time voter, who told us that this measure was something he couldn’t wait to endorse on the ballot. We garnered incredible support, and buoyed by it, we approached a new front door, knocking hopefully. A bearded man with a skeptical expression opened up.
“Hi sir, are you interested in learning about Best Starts for Kids, a county-wide levy to improve early childhood education?”
“More taxes? Ha, no way.”
He began to shut the door, and suddenly, my training kicked in. I thought about the extensive briefing we ambassadors receive on the bipartisan nature of childhood issues, which are fertile ground for inter-party agreement and coalition building.
After all, evidence of the leveraged benefits of early childhood education is overwhelming. I recalled the equal commitment of the offices of Reps. Dave Reichert, a Republican, and Suzan DelBene, a Democrat, to ensuring bright futures for kids both in our state but also worldwide. And I remembered one of the greatest justifications of government investment to share with those who are against new spending.
“Did you know that Best Starts for Kids could reduce criminal justice spending—our county’s biggest line item—tangibly? Investing now would lead to a pretty big financial return later.”
“You don’t say?” The man cracked the door back open, stepping closer to meet us.
His interest was piqued. After a positive chat, we left him with some campaign materials and went on our merry way, playing the numbers game, respecting “no solicitors” signs and bonding with those who met us kindly.
This may seem like a small, unimportant interaction. But it demonstrates the greater meaning of teenage involvement with Save the Children Action Network.
The organization truly empowers young people like me to get out and speak out. It equips us with knowledge to bridge partisan divides, learn from and get closer to our communities and utilize the merits of our teenage voices to make real, lasting differences in politics.
Because of SCAN, I was able to plant a seed of consideration within someone who probably wouldn’t have thought twice about early childhood education when checking a box on his ballot.
My advocacy is a mere drop in the ocean, but it can create ripples that radiate far and wide. This moment reaffirmed that I was rolling with the right group, channeling my passion for children’s rights into effective action and doing the right thing with my Saturday afternoons.