Over the course of one lunch period in mid-October, 13 San Jose high schools competed against each other to pre-register almost 1,000 future voters, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez announced during an award ceremony Nov. 5.

Chavez created the pilot “Student Registration Day” program earlier this year to prepare young voters for the 2020 election, and marked the eve of Election Day that afternoon with commendations for the participating schools.

Though most of the students working to pre-register voters are years away from being able to vote, Chavez said the generation is critical since it’s the first in 40 years to outnumber the baby boomers.

One group of students from Leland High School described why they are passionate about voting, both for themselves, and for those who live in the United States but do not have the ability to vote.

“If you don’t speak for yourself, someone else will,” said Cody Ho, 16.

His main concern this year is immigration, and said the country needs to be welcoming for all immigrants, especially in an immigrant-rich area like Santa Clara County.

Another student, 16-year-old Prerna Agarwal, said housing is a critical issue for the Bay Area. She said county residents suffer from a disproportionate amount of homelessness, despite the area’s wealth, and voters must prioritize housing in the shadow of large, expanding technology businesses.

“We are actively participating in a process of gentrification, stripping us not only of our culture, but the economic diversity that makes Silicon Valley so great,” she said.

The students said they were also passionate advocates for the environment, their teachers and strengthening public education in California.

For the kickoff of the pilot program, Evergreen Valley High School and Lincoln High School pre-registered the most voters in their respective school districts.

The program hopes to spread across the county’s schools in the next few years, with Mount Pleasant, Yerba Buena, Silver Creek, Andrew P. Hill, Evergreen Valley, Piedmont Hills, Santa Teresa, Abraham Lincoln, Henry T. Gunderson, Leland, San Jose, Pioneer and Willow Glen high schools participating in the inaugural class.

Story originally published by Bay City News.