South Carolina is carving a spot for millennials in the Democratic Party.
Several James E. Clyburn Political Fellows have made their way to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. The fellowship provides training to shape young people to be leaders of their generation.
Bree Maxwell, 29, a Richland County resident, Clyburn fellow and president of the Young Democrats of South Carolina, said it’s critical young people get involved in politics.
“The issues that they are pushing for now are the issues that we will live with,” the Sanders delegate said. “They’ll be the issues that our children and grandchildren will live with. It’s so important to get involved and be knowledgeable.”
Jeni Atchley, 27, of Dorchester agreed, “it is so important because we are not just the future of the party, we are the now.”
Atchley is a Sanders delegate, Clyburn fellow and second vice president of the Young Democrats of South Carolina.
The fellowship, designed by South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jamie Harrison and Sen. James Clyburn, aims to train 200 youth fellows to effectively run offices and campaigns by the year 2020.
Clyburn said young people need real, wholesome experiences to encourage them to get involved in politics, and the fellowship in his namesake provides that opportunity.
“The practice of politics is an art,” Clyburn said. “You don’t learn art in the classroom. If you’re interested in politics, you have to get involved and learn it.”
The Clyburn Fellowship made strides to incorporate age diversity in the state Democratic Party, where the current average age of party officials is over 60.
“Seasoned Democrats need to know that we young people are serious about making a difference,” Atchley said.
Registered voters between ages 18 and 25 make up 27 percent of the voter population in South Carolina, according to the Voter Participation Data Center.
Maxwell said members of her generation can make an impact on the Democratic Party if they make their voices heard.
“In South Carolina we have Republican control and have for years,” Maxwell said. “Our state is stagnant. If we could get more young people active, involved and knowledgeable about politics, I’m pretty sure the majority of them will be willing to come to the Democratic Party and make change.”
- Photos and text by Brianna Spause for The Island Packet