It takes more than free cupcakes


It takes more than free cupcakes

My name is Madison Settle, and I can’t dance.

I can’t keep up with the latest fashion trends. I can’t drive long distances without a GPS, introduce myself with complete confidence, or do Calculus with ease. But thanks to my experience with Inspire West Virginia, I know that there are a lot of things that I can do, and so can other young people, like me.

I’ve learned that I can raise my voice.

The mission of Inspire U.S. is to encourage young people to participate in the political process by talking to their elected officials, staying informed, and getting out to vote. When I attended the Inspire Leadership Academy last summer, the coordinators forced us to take stands and discuss our political opinions in a civilized manner.

Anyone that knows me knows that I don’t deal with confrontation well. But I learned quickly at the Academy that I could engage in debate and not die. Disagreements did occur, but when operating with the understanding that the most crucial part of communication is listening, I was able to better understand myself and others.

Andrew Willis and Madison Settle were the 2016-2017 ‘Inspired Leaders’ for Charleston Catholic High School from 2016-2017. The two were able to register every member of their senior class to vote.

I’ve learned that I can work hard.

My Inspire partner, Andrew Willis, and I quickly learned that registering our entire senior class to vote would take more than long lists and free cupcakes. First, we had to meet the principal with a detailed plan in order to get clearance for our school to participate in the program at all. After we overcame that hurdle, it was all about writing interesting announcements, learning the class schedules of our peers, and following up with every classmate.

I’ve learned that I can succeed.

Andrew and I were the first Inspired Leaders in not only the state, but the nation to register our entire class to vote. Thanks to our efforts, we were named Honorary Secretaries of State for the day and spent an entire work day with Secretary of State, Mac Warner, and his team. We met several senators and delegates at the office open house and were introduced by Delegate Mike Pushkin on the House floor.

Not every success comes with a reward this tangible, but it reminded the two of us that there’s always more work even after our goal has been met.

The week before we graduated from Charleston Catholic High School, Secretary Warner presented us with the Jennings Randolph award in front of our class and school administrators, which made our last days of high school even sweeter.

From left, Secretary of State Mac Warner presented Madison Settle and Andrew Willis with the Jennings Randolph Award. Named after Jennings Randolph, the U.S. Senator from Harrison County, West Virginia, who fathered the 26th Amendment to lower the voting age to 18, the award is given to high schools who register 100 percent of their eligible seniors to vote.

I’ve learned that I can show up.

When the Senate and the House are in session, people can show up every single day and watch the proceedings. Talk about getting involved! I knew this before because of my mother’s work as the CEO of West Virginia Health Right, but it is mind blowing to consider how much more interested young people would be if they came to see the process for themselves. There are also so many protests and town halls that anyone, of any age can use to make a significant impact.

I’ve learned that I can be grateful, and know that with gratitude comes responsibility. The more involved that I become, the more I realize that the United States of America is the greatest nation in the world. It is a miracle to live here because I have the freedom to believe, to say, and to be whatever I feel in my heart is right. As a young woman, I am thankful for this opportunity, but I also acknowledge that it is my responsibility as a citizen to hold the government accountable and keep it that way. Generations of people fought for these rights and it is the duty of young people to preserve them and build upon them, today and into the future.

My work with Inspire taught me about participation, hard work, success, and gratitude, but it also taught me confidence. This confidence came into my life at the right time, and has given me the courage to be myself and know my worth.

Every young person is a piece of the future, and ultimately that is the best thing that anyone can be.

Inspire West Virginia is a local program of the national, nonpartisan nonprofit organization, Inspire U.S. Inspire WV recruits student leaders who are graduates of the Inspire2Vote Academy. Every ‘Inspired Leaders’ goal across the state is to register at least 85 percent of the eligible seniors at their high school to vote.

Inspired Leaders work throughout the year on voter registration and voter engagement as they learn leadership skills and gain practice in civic engagement activities like interacting with elected officials, attending candidate and elected official forums, and more. Inspire U.S. works to transform young leaders’ inspiration into action that improves our communities and strengthens our democracy.

Click here to learn more about Inspire WV.

Madison Settle is a Charleston native making her way to New Orleans this fall to study English Literature at Loyola University. Inspired by her mother’s work as the CEO of West Virginia Health Right and the emphasis on service she received at Charleston Catholic High School, Madison hopes to attend law school and afterwards work for nonprofit organizations. Her passions also include reading, acting, baking, and traveling with her big family.

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