In the onslaught of campaign TV ads this presidential election season, you may have seen this one: children sit in front of a TV screen watching Donald Trump deliver divisive comments about immigrants, women and people with disabilities.
The ad wraps up with a message: “Our children are watching.”
Apparently, so are New York City teenagers.
Chalkbeat caught up with a handful of students this week as they registered to vote for the first time at an event organized by the New York Immigration Coalition. The group visited schools across the five boroughs, making sure teens didn’t miss out on the chance to cast their first ballot.
Here’s what three teens at Pathways to Graduation at Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn, an alternative school for older students working toward a high school equivalency degree, had to say about registering to vote, presidential politics and their hopes for the future.
Tyrone Alexis, 19, Canarsie
Tyrone Alexis wasn’t planning to vote. Then he got a crash course in civics from the New York Immigration Coalition.
“They just said that basically the world gave us opportunity,” he said. “That’s the only power we get towards the government.”
That was enough to convince him. Now that he’s registered, Alexis said he feels empowered — and plans to make voting a social affair.
“My friends, they plan to vote. We’re going to go together,” he said.
The first ballot he’ll cast will be for Hillary Clinton, Alexis said. He was swayed by revelations that Trump may have avoided paying federal income taxes for almost two decades, as reported by the New York Times.
“Hillary thinks that people that make a lot of money should pay more taxes than the people who don’t make a lot of money,” he said.
Also on his mind as he heads to the ballot box: what kinds of work will be available once he and his friends enter the labor market.
“We should get more jobs,” Alexis said. “That’s a big impact on the generation now.”
Kevin Narcisse, 19, Brooklyn
Kevin Narcisse was born in the U.S., but his parents are from Haiti. Though he described his mom as a regular voter, Narcisse himself has yet to cast a ballot.
Trump’s stance on immigration convinced him to change that.
“He wants our people, our moms and dads, to go back to their country. And that’s why I’m voting for Hillary,” he said. “I don’t want to see my mom and dad to go back to their country.”
Narcisse isn’t just thinking about his family. He said immigrants help “support this country.”
Narcisse also said he favors Clinton because she offers specifics: “She talks about what she’s going to do. She doesn’t talk how Donald Trump talks — like just say things and don’t answer the question.”
Vonden Allison, 17, Far Rockaway
Vonden Allison can’t vote — not just because he isn’t old enough yet, but because he’s only been in the country for about five weeks. But that doesn’t mean he’s not following presidential politics.
Allison, who moved to the U.S. from Guyana, said he was dismayed by Trump’s behavior at the first debate against Clinton.
“The way he kept interrupting Hillary Clinton when she’s talking and stuff, that was crazy,” Allison said. “He’s kind of disrespectful to ladies. I have a mother and I have a little sister, so I wouldn’t want anybody to be disrespectful of them. And I see that as total disrespect to women.”
Once Allison gets the chance to cast a ballot, he said he’ll be looking for candidates who can help him achieve his dream of earning a college degree. He’s interested in building electronics and fixing cars.
“I’m trying to get a job to pay for my college education, try to save money, because it’s kind of hard for my family,” he said. “I just want to make myself better and educate myself, be a part of something big.”