Red Bank Regional junior Elijah Nishiura of Red Bank is pictured with Senator Corey Booker at a political event. Elijah is clocking his third election campaign as a student intern, and is working on local and state level campaigns simultaneously this election season.
Press release from Red Bank Regional High School
On November 3 — in this local election year that lacks the fanfare of a presidential or even a gubernatorial race — many Americans will decline to vote. That drives 16-year old Red Bank Regional High School junior Elijah Nishiura wild.
“Issues like college affordability, women’s health services, how we get a job, how we survive, (are) all determined by politics,” says Elijah. “And if you are not informed and vote, you can’t complain about it.”
Elijah is counting the days until he can vote, which will not occur until the 2018 Gubernatorial election (unfortunately, he misses the 2016 Presidential election next year). But until that time, he will contribute in other ways. In fact, he has been preparing for the upcoming November election for months; interning in two separate election campaigns. Two to three times a week after school, he mans the phones in the Asbury Park campaign office defending an incumbent election. On the weekends, he helps set campaign strategy for an insurgent assembly election, walking the neighborhoods with his Monmouth County candidates.
A piano major in RBR’s Visual and Performing Arts Academy, and an active member of the school’s Mock Trial team, Elijah gradually fell into political activity when, at a ball game one day, he was asked to deliver flyers for a local election. One introduction led to another. and he was soon trained to assist in a county freehold election. His candidate lost, but he is happy to acknowledge that the loss was the smallest margin in an off-year election.
He pursued his community service desire in high school. and has run in school elections since he was freshman. He lost elections in his first two years, until he applied the tactics he had learned on the campaign trail.
“I knew a lot of people just weren’t voting because the process was on-line using a school computer program,” he explains. “So I pulled up the program on my cell phone and went table to table during lunch explaining to everyone how they could vote.”
The strategy worked. He was elected Public Relations Officer for the Junior Class.
While Elijah doesn’t have a quick answer as to what drives his keen interest in politics, he acknowledges the impact of his being the grandson of a Japanese American who was interred in an American camp during World War II.
“I like to think that will never happen in our country again,” he relates, “However, when I hear some people’s comments on Muslim Americans or Hispanics, I think ‘that very well could happen’.”
Still. Elijah is optimistic to think that his generation will ease the polarization that has paralyzed our nation’s government and the body politic.
“I think the dynamics of the country is changing,” he says. “Just look how fast policy has changed in the last 15 years on gay rights. Equal pay for equal work is an issue that my generation really cares about. That is a good thing as I think our generation is more accepting and inclusionary.”
Elijah plans to major in labor studies and minor in public policy in college in two years — but until then, he looks forward to helping others exercise their fundamental right to vote.