On November 5, 2019, state and local elections were held in communities across the United States, including in 63 of our 100 largest cities. That means that millions of other Americans got up, got in line, got their sticker, and got on with their day, just like I did — a ritual as strange as it is simple, when you think about it. When my roommate and I voted in Indianapolis, Indiana, the clerk at our vote center noticed her left-handedness and commented that “a lot of lefties have come through this morning.” I’m right-handed myself, but we both smiled at that.
A professor at my old community college said something in our first lecture on American government that has always stuck with me: “Politics is about who decides.” In our country, citizens are tasked with making that decision, in some form or another, with a trip to the ballot box every year or so. In effect that means in America, politics is about who shows up — and in America, we tend to show up the day of if we’re going to show up at all.
This was my first time voting in person on election day since I cast my first vote in November 2012. It was also my first time voting as a Point Scholar, and for me, it’s unlikely the former would be possible without the latter. For the last few elections, I have made my living working with candidates and campaigns as they try to affect policy or win local office, and when you’re on the payroll, you have to vote early. Election day is just too frantic without trying to work in a trip to the polls, even if you don’t take the time for a ballot selfie. There are volunteers to wrangle. Numbers to watch. Candidates to calm down. Sometimes, a speech to write. Sometimes, a second speech to write and hide from the candidate so they don’t know you had to prepare for a loss. Not so this year. And that, it turns out, is quite a big change for me.
Point Scholar Kyle Casteel at the polls in Indianapolis
One of the greatest things about Point Foundation is its commitment to fostering not just academic and professional achievement in its scholars, but a sense of service and responsibility to our communities as well. We are in fact not only encouraged but required to serve our community in some way as a condition of the scholarship. But far beyond the annual community service project, the nature of Point’s mission encourages those of us lucky enough to earn the rank of scholar to consider our own education an act of service — a task we take on not only for ourselves but for our families, for the LGBTQ community, for our homes and the world we find them in.
And with this requirement comes the support necessary to make it so. As I write this, I am sitting on campus at the four-year university Point helped me transfer to, killing time before a class that Point helped me pay for. I did not have to work today. There were no votes to count but my own. All that was expected of me was to show up — to class, and to the polls. For myself, and for everyone else. The act of casting my vote alongside millions of others may seem like a small thing, but today I was given the chance to take part in democracy without having to run frantically to keep up with it. To live in a country that gives its citizens that choice, and to be part of an organization that wants to give me the best possible chance to make that choice well — it is hard to imagine anything larger than that. I am grateful for it.
Also for the sticker.
This post was written by Point Scholar Kyle Casteel.
Kyle Casteel first joined the Point community in 2018 as a Community College Scholarship Recipient. Now a Point Scholar, Kyle is studying Policy Studies & Global and International Studies at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis. Read more about Kyle here.