Generation Z in Power

How this young generation will change the world


Susannah Goldsmith

Aspen High School Students signing up for Earth Group, which focuses on climate advocacy.

From Malala Yousafzai standing up for her education to Greta Thunberg meeting with international leaders to fight for the climate, Generation Z is sending a strong message: that they will fight for their beliefs.

Children are the future, yet regulations and societal expectations limit the amount of power and influence that our youth hold. Generation Z (1996-2015) is fighting to reclaim power in their communities through advocating for social issues close to their hearts, such as LGBTQIA+ rights, gender equality, and climate awareness.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, around 70% of Generation Z believe that climate should be a top priority, and are more politically engaged than prior generations. Additionally, a larger percentage of young adults identify more with the Democratic Party than the GOP. These statistics were most recently seen in action through the result of a local school board election in Idaho, in which a Republican city-backed board member lost reelection to an 18-year-old climate activist.

The election occurred in Idaho’s capital, Boise, which is the center for the Republican controlled state’s GOP party. The right-leaning government officials in Boise hold offices including the governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and both chambers of the state legislature. So how did a libral senior in high school win power over a city-backed board member? The answer is the passion, and tenacity, of this young generation of Americans.

The newly elected board member, Shiva Rajbhandari, turned 18 only days before the election. Rajbhandari was notorious throughout the school district for his political advocacy concerning gun violence, voting rights, and especially the climate disaster. After his former-opponent, Steve Schmidt accepted an endorsement from a local extremist group that harassed students, Rajbhandari knew it was time to act.

With a tight election in store, Schmidt was backed by the GOP Idaho Library Dogs. As a result of that enforcement, Boise’s leading newspaper, the Idaho Statesman, endorsed Rajbhandari. Rajbhandari made it clear that his campaign was not against Schmidt, but rather advocating for his own issues, the incumbent Republican did not take the same approach. The Idaho Liberty Dogs attacked Rajbhandari on Facebook, saying that the liberal party was “‘projecting’ their very sins” onto Schmidt, and targeting a series of Rajbhandari’s campaigns.

Despite Schmidt’s mudslinging campaign, Rajbhandari was able to secure his win by a 56% majority. This victory not only marks a turning point and an era of protection of LGBTQIA+ youth and the environment in the Boise school district, but also a recurring pattern of youth standing up for their beliefs across the globe. From Malala Yousafzai standing up for her education to Greta Thunberg meeting with international leaders to fight for the climate, Generation Z is sending a strong message. Rajbhandari’s election shows how Gen Z can hold positions of authority; empowering youth in Aspen, and around the nation, to stand up for what they believe in.