By Linda Dillman
Hamilton Township High School senior Cael Shaw may still be not old enough to vote—he turns 18 on Nov. 25—but that is not stopping him from exercising his right to assist others when polls open on Nov. 3 as a Youth at the Booth volunteer.
“Unfortunately, last year around election time, I was not old enough to legally work at the polls, so this coming election is my first time working as a volunteer poll worker,” said Shaw, who is a lifelong Hamilton Township Ranger along with many members of his family. “My birthday is right after the election, which means I am unable to vote on Nov. 3. Because of this, I feel like working the polls is my civic duty. I recognized that due to the pandemic, there is a nationwide poll worker shortage, a position that I would gladly fill.”
In addition to being a member of the varsity soccer and swimming teams, Shaw is president of the HTHS Environmental Club, a member of Superintendent Mark Tyler’s student advisory board and serves on Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s teen ambassador board. He is a Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Seminar alumnus, attended Ohio University’s Summer Trial and Law Institute and served on the student council every year of his high school career.
Principal Robert Lanthorn said, that due to the pandemic and COVID-19 restrictions, Shaw was the only student to sign-up for the school’s Youth at the Booth program.
During his 14 years at the high school, Lanthorn has served as the Youth at the Booth liaison, during which time he watched the number of student participants grow from just a few kids to 40-50 student poll workers.
“I think it’s refreshing for our community to see our students serve in these roles because I think many believe, like me, that we all have a role to play in inspiring and empowering our young,” said Lanthorn. “Seeing in action the conversations our students and community members have at polling places confirms for me that the in-person power of encouraging long-term civic engagement that is as important as ever.”
Shaw said the ability for the public to participate in the election process is the “beautiful part” of American democracy and it is crucial that every eligible individual exercises their right to vote.
“It is our civic duty to work for the betterment of a process that many Americans take for granted. It is also important that students remain involved,” said Shaw. “Being an active member of my community through sports, clubs, community service organizations, poll working, etc. has allowed me to have unique life experiences, create lasting bonds, and prepare me for my future.”
Shaw’s interest in politics started in since 6th grade when he joined the Ohio Model United Nations team at Hamilton Intermediate School. Because of this experience, he said he became well versed in international politics, which addresses solvable issues worldwide.
He joined the high school’s environmental club his sophomore year, which furthered his passion for protecting the planet.
“After those initial interests, I began to develop passionate opinions about any and every political topic there is,” said Shaw, “thus compelling me to join the Ohio attorney general’s teen ambassador board where I can have my voice be heard on any and every issue that faces the state of Ohio.”
After many nights of research, Shaw said he concluded the way to bring true environmental change is through politics. He is in the process of applying to several colleges where he plans to major in political science and minor in either English or history.
After college, he hopes to go to law school to become an environmental lawyer and “give a voice to the living things on our planet that do not have one.”