Manhattan teen makes it easier for fellow high schoolers to get involved in politics

A politically-savvy Manhattan teen wants his fellow high school students to get into the arena.

Up until two years ago, James Kuntz wasn’t all that interested in civics himself, he preferred baseball. But the fireworks-laden 2016 campaign season and presidential election sparked an ever-growing interest.

“The combination of the policy and the theatrics really grabbed my attention,” the 17-year-old told the Daily News. His passion led him to start Teens in Politics, an organization and website dedicated to helping teens find political internships.

The Dalton School junior was surprised by how hard it was to find information about internship opportunities or other ways for teens to get engaged.

“I was searching for different opportunities and there weren’t really any aggregators of internship opportunities. There really weren’t any targeted towards teens,” he said.

So Kuntz went ahead and created his own, launching this past spring.

The site, which includes information about internships with politicians in Congress and New York State lawmakers as well as a blog, has already racked up more than 3,000 page views from more than 500 unique visitors.

“It took a lot of forethought and logistics,” Kuntz said, adding that he hopes his efforts will resonate with others his age and inspire more young people to get involved.

“A lot of people my age are very disconnected from politics and there’s a lot of apathy,” he said.

While some teens have become more politically active in response to mass shootings or environmental policies of the Trump administration, the majority of millennials remain on the sidelines.

An estimated 31% of eligible people ages 18 to 29 voted in the midterms earlier this month, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. That’s down from the 51% who came out for the 2016 presidential election.

Part of Kuntz’s mission is to combat that malaise, and he’s hoping to expand the opportunities offered on the site outside of New York for the 2020 election cycle — when he’ll be able to vote in his first presidential election.

His own interest in policy decisions and the path legislation takes to become law led him to seek out his own opportunities to work with local lawmakers. Last year, he joined Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s Congressional Youth Cabinet, earning him plaudits from the congresswoman.

“I applaud James Kuntz for his innovation and initiative to develop Teens in Politics and for encouraging his peers to be more involved politically,” Maloney told The News. “He’s been a great member of my Congressional Youth Cabinet and I’m not at all surprised by his success.”