Read about what's driving me - and our #ErinForUs campaign - in Teen Vogue!
by Kate Parrish
Erin Schrode isn’t getting much sleep these days. The newly turned 25-year-old announced on March 29 that she was running for the U.S. House of Representatives in California’s District 2 and has been burning up the campaign trail since. If elected, she'll become the youngest member of Congress.
“I believe in a representative democracy,” Erin tells Teen Vogue. “I don’t need a whole government made up by people just like me, but I do think there’s a place for a young, progressive female voice in the national government arena.” She's running against incumbent Jared Huffman, a 52-year-old man who has represented California’s 2nd congressional district since 2013. For the California native, who has never held political office before, the timing has never made more sense. “If we keep electing the same types of people to Washington, we will keep getting the same types of policy and same types of partisan gridlock,” she says. “The decisions being made today [in government] will disproportionately affect young people yet young people have no voice at the table.”
Although Erin wasn’t actively seeking a role in politics before she decided to run for office, her experience in rallying people around a cause and advocating for solution-based change extends over a decade-plus-long career as an activist. In 2005, at just 13 years old, Erin, alongside her mother Judi Shils, co-founded Turning Green, a “student-led org promoting eco sustainability for lifestyles, schools, and communities,” in response to the unexplainable, above-average rates of cancer in her hometown of Marin County.
Since then, Erin has mobilized millions of young people to bring awareness and legislative action around the issues that matter most to them. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, she created The Schoolbag to provide students with the materials they needed to be successful at home and school. She has traveled and volunteered in 70 countries across Africa, South America, Europe, and the Middle East. The White House and the United Nations have recognized her for her commitment to global community service.
Despite her penchant for global activism, Erin is ready to bring her attention back to where it all started for her in Marin County. The issues she has spent over a decade exploring: environmental and public health, human rights, and tech innovation are issues that affect all on the local and global scale. “I believe firmly in local government,” she says. “I believe that we do need that young freshman class rising up through the ranks that is more willing to work together, that is better informed, that has not been entrenched in power structures for decades and that better understand where our country is headed.”
As her primary for the Democratic nomination on June 7 is fast approaching, the young social entrepreneur spends each day campaigning door-to-door, calling voters, appearing at local events, and like most 20-somethings, updating her Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram accounts.
“Social media — digital communication — is the reason our campaign exists today, truly,” Erin says. “We are a real-world campaign that is boots on the ground looking to impact people’s lives here, where they live, however we’re amplifying that through all these digital tools.” For Erin, it is about meeting people where they are, whether that is at their front door, on a phone call, or on social media, and engaging them in conversations about what matters most to them.
While this combination of online and offline communication is helping her reach multiple generations and bolster her campaign efforts, it is also placing her in the center of conversations about age, gender, and responsibility. “Young women are the most powerful agents of change we have on planet Earth,” Erin says. “A world where a young woman is dissuaded from doing anything because she is young or because she is a woman is not a world in which I want to live.”
While Erin admits that the deck is stacked against women, regardless of age, in politics and elsewhere, change will only come, she says, from taking action and taking a stance. Win or lose tomorrow, life won’t change all that much for Erin, who says: “I’m a lifelong activist. Public service is my mission. That will not die on June 8, or November 8, or two years from now, or four years from now.” After all, her life's motto has always been: “Do something. Start somewhere. Begin today.”
Make sure to check out more of Teen Vogue!