I’m excited to introduce the first Highlands Youth (HY) Advisory Board “Art of Adulting” workshop, “Rock Your Vote and Your Voice” with local civic leader and Issaquah Highlands resident, Issaquah City Councilmember Zach Hall on October 3.
In a recent interview, Councilmember Hall said he believes civic engagement, including the right to vote, is a crucial exercise in community development and sustainability. He doesn’t just mean engagement opportunities for adults – Councilmember Hall says there are opportunities out there for teens to get civically involved as well.
I invite all Issaquah Highlands high school students to join the HY on Sunday, October 3 at 3 p.m. for the first “Art of Adulting” workshop with Councilmember Hall. Teens can register online. This virtual event is for high school students only.
Q&A with Councilmember Zach Hall
When you were a teen, how much did you know about civic engagement?
“When I was a teenager – wow, that makes me feel old – my exposure to civics was local. I grew up in the South Cove neighborhood [of Issaquah] which was, at that time, a part of unincorporated King County. The community was eventually annexed into Issaquah in the 2000s. During this transition, our neighborhood was actively engaged in understanding what annexation would mean to us. Would we finally have better access to services (police presence, waste management, etc.)? Would our taxes go up? Would we finally get a sidewalk along Northwest Sammamish Road?”
“I listened to what my parents and neighbors would report back, and I found myself watching Channel 21, the city’s TV station, frequently. And with that, my interest in local government began.”
When did you realize you wanted to serve in public office?
“The path I took was unique. After graduating from Issaquah High School, I majored in biology at the University of Washington, thinking I would pursue a career in medicine. But during my senior year, I decided I wanted to try something outside of my comfort zone. I took an internship with the Washington State Senate. Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated with public policy, government, and community work. That experience convinced me that government was ultimately an instrument of good, a place where people come together.”
How can teens be more civically engaged and prepare to be civically engaged adults?
“In my mind, the most important thing an individual can do, regardless of age, is to keep an open mind and be open to new ways of thinking about issues. Don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong when you hear a good argument. And, most importantly, when someone disagrees with you, don’t argue. Ask questions and listen deeply. Try to understand where others are coming from and how lived experience might influence the way they think about the world. Embracing this philosophy is an important part of becoming a leader.”
“Another thing I wish I learned earlier is you don’t have to be 18 to get involved in government. Regardless of whether you can vote, your voice matters. What’s important to you and your future? Maybe you want your leaders to focus more on climate change. You can write or call your elected leaders. You can roll up your sleeves and join a board or commission (Issaquah has a number of boards and commissions that recruit youth members). You can volunteer for a political campaign that speaks to your priorities (I would highly recommend everyone do this at least once in their lifetime).”
Joseph Bone-Mazák is a 10th-grader, Highlands Youth Advisory Board co-president, and Park Drive resident.