As teenagers, we are fortunate enough to have been surrounded by adults who frequently encourage us to participate in politics, use our voices, and vote. Students from across the Oak Park and River Forest area have done just that. We’ve listened, talked to candidates and found an inspiring leader and candidate that we wholeheartedly support: Kina Collins.

We want a representative in Illinois’ 7th Congressional District who will be available and accountable to this community — no matter their age. We know that Kina will be that person. She frequently listens to our voices, including teens at Youth Committee 4 Change meetings and students at OPRF High School events. Crucially, she also shows up with us to actions that matter to so many of us, from protests against gun violence to climate action rallies and teacher strikes.

Our community deserves someone who will always show up for the fights that matter to us.

When Danny Davis, the incumbent and Kina’s opponent, first ran for the House of Representatives in 1996, his platform was notably progressive — according to a Chicago Sun-Times article from the time, he supported gay rights, the Equal Rights Amendment, and single-payer health care. At the time, he was endorsed by the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America. He was representative of one of the most progressive districts in the country.

But 25 years later, as Davis remains the congressperson for the Illinois 7th District, he has changed and no longer truly represents us — instead, he represents a machine in Washington. He promised a lot of investments that never came, missed over 1,000 votes in his career, and took votes that disappointed us. He voted to continue construction on the Keystone XL oil pipeline that President Obama vowed to veto. He has voted against new campaign financial contribution regulations, and takes tens of thousands of dollars from real estate, Wall Street, oil and gas, and pharmaceutical corporations.

It’s time we pass the torch to a new generation of leadership, uncorrupted by decades of politics in Washington. From leading Illinois’ largest gun violence prevention nonprofit to leading protests for criminal justice reform and climate change, Kina Collins has been a relentless fighter for progressive values. Our generation will be the most heavily impacted by whatever climate change legislation passes, or fails to pass, today, and Kina has been outspoken about the need for an equitable transition to 100% renewable energy — plus, she has signed a pledge to not take money from any corporations, including oil and natural gas corporations.

As students, gun violence is another far-too-relevant concern in our lives, one that literally could mean life or death for us in our own classrooms, and it’s an issue Kina has already been fighting for years, as executive director of One Aim Illinois, the largest gun violence prevention nonprofit in the state.

As we begin to join the workforce, we want to know that we will have adequate pay and protections, such as those offered in the PRO Act. As the Supreme Court threatens to take away our reproductive freedom, we need leaders who have proven that they will never stop defending our rights. After Trump rolled back rights and protections for women, Kina helped write and pass the Illinois Council on Women and Girls Act to ensure that women will have statewide protections for reproductive health care, domestic violence, housing, and education. If Roe is overturned, we know that she will be a fierce advocate for putting women’s rights into law.

Kina Collins represents a young and passionate generation inspired to fight for our community and has the experience to get things done in Congress. So if you are serious about empowering young people in politics and their communities, please stand with us and vote for the future we deserve. Vote for Kina Collins in Illinois’ 7th Congressional District primary election on June 28.

Remus Bachner (14), Tucker Bonnell (18), Eva Carson (18), Noelia Guerrero (19), Anne Lynch (16), Maeve Mascarenhas (18), Ingrid Medgyesy (16), Tim Mellman (18), Charlotte Meyer (18), Rachel Prestes (16), Katie Stabb (16), and Paisley Templeton (16) are Oak Park and River Forest residents, most of whom attend, have attended or will attend OPRF High School.

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