Just because you can’t yet vote doesn’t mean you can’t influence how government works.
That’s the lesson Tigard teenager Aishiki Nag took away from last summer, when she helped the Youth Action Team of Next Up, a Portland-based nonprofit, lobby the state legislature on behalf of a proposed senate bill that would have allowed 16 and 17-year olds to vote.
“I think that ever since last summer when I had the opportunity to get involved with the Youth Action cohort, that’s how I started learning about local government and how people can get involved,” Nag said. “Just because youth can’t vote doesn’t mean we can’t have a say in government.”
That was her motivation for applying for the Tigard Youth City Councilor position this spring as a sophomore at Tigard High School. Ultimately, she was appointed to the position and started her one-year term on July 1.
‘This position was just perfect,” she said. “I really wanted to apply and I’m so glad I ended up getting this position. I wanted to elevate and advocate for my peers and try and give input on the forgotten youth perspective.”
Nag succeeds former Youth Councilor Emilio Calderon, who focused on expanded outreach and communication to students during his term during 2020-21.
“It’s given me so many experiences that I otherwise would not even have known about or obviously had,” Calderon said at the June 22 city council meeting. “I think they are going to be invaluable to my life, and I think these experiences have changed me and what I wanted to do.”
For her part, Nag has also served an internship with the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and as forum moderator for the Next Up School Board Candidate Event prior to the May 2021 election. She is also on the Tigard High School robotics team and helped organize a team food drive and a gratitude drive for doctors.
Despite her accomplishments, she said the interview process for the youth councilor position was “nerve-wracking.”
“One thing I did to calm the nerves,” she said, “was there was a moment when they said ‘Hey, if you have questions,’ so, I took that as an opportunity to ask how similar Tigard is to (the hit TV show) “Parks and Rec.” And, apparently, according to Councilor Heidi Lueb, there are some similarities.”
She learned about her appointment in an amusing fashion, too.
“I was really happy when I ended up getting a phone call from the mayor, but I didn’t know it was the mayor and I ended up hanging up,” she said. “I was like ‘What is this spam call?’ But he texted me right after, so that’s how I found out I was selected.”
More seriously, Nag’s goals for her term include working on voter registration for newly eligible teen voters, as well as community outreach.
“I recently did a survey where I interviewed people because I wanted to see what their priorities are,” Nag said. “And one of the main things was pedestrian safety, so, I’d like to talk about making sidewalks better, having more crosswalks. And voter registration is a big thing I want to accomplish – I want a 25 to 30 percent increase in youth registration in Tigard.”
She wants to use her position to highlight the role of government in people’s lives and to help teens feel more connected to Tigard.
“There are a large group of people who say they don’t feel connected to Tigard,” she said. “And I want to create activities for teens where we can hang out, maybe have Otter Pops and clean up Cook Park and that will take care of environmental aspects, too.”