SALT LAKE CITY -- Students from across the state gathered Saturday with some of Utah’s top leaders for an event geared towards sparking political activism.
The event is hosted by the group Young Americans for Liberty, and attendee Michael Melendez said it’s an experience that inspires.
“What comes out for me at these events is I no longer feel helpless or apathetic,” the University of Utah senior said. “I honestly feel like I can make a difference and make change when I see some of these young representatives out there actually making a difference.”
Some of Utah’s top public officials and the college students hoping to one day replace them came together for an event geared towards educating, networking and activism.
"It's a mix of things: Some students want to run for office themselves, some students want to work for campaigns, and some students just really want to make a difference in their community in the country," said Lauren Evans, who is with Young Americans for Liberty.
YAL is a non-profit group, and according to their website they have more than 300 campus chapters and more than 26,000 student activists on their rolls.
Students like Melendez helped establish YAL chapters on almost every college campus in the state.
"Having real tools and skills in which they can apply on their campus rather than just, you know, a lot of politics turns into just cheerleading and rah rah this--but actually knowing how to get in with the administration, or with local leaders, and actually steer change," Melendez said.
During the first half of the day, students participated in a campaign boot camp, and the second half involved a power house panel that included Utah businessmen and public officials. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill was among those who spoke.
Gill said: "I think democracy is hard work, and you have to invest in it. And, as I’ve always said: Every political spectrum, every political voice is relevant, and we have to learn to talk with each other, converse with each other, if we're going to find any solutions.”
State Rep. Marc Roberts, R-District 67, also attended.
"It's encouraging to see the youth involved, the younger generations involved,” he said.
As one of Utah’s newest and youngest elected officials, Roberts said he relates to the young activists.
"I relate more to them than I guess many of my colleagues,” he said. “This is my generation, so it's encouraging. I like it, and I'm glad to interact with them and build relationships with them.”