Just over a month after the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history, in the wake of a nationwide debate about gun control, one Montgomery County teen had an idea. In less than three days, it turned into a movement, gaining nationwide support.
Marlena Tyldesley, a junior at Montgomery Blair High school, founded YearWeVote on March 16. The idea came from talking with her family, after a family friend in Arizona reached out, eager for change. “He sent us a check a few days ago, and kind of desperately said ‘please do something, help me be a part of the action, use this money and put it to something good’,” she said in a phone call.
Tyldesley decided to put the money towards increasing voter turnout among youth. “Voting is a really important part of this whole movement, you know getting people out to the polls,” said Tyldesley. “Because young people going to the polls, the numbers are abysmally low.”
The concept of YearWeVote started with a tweet on Tyldesley’s personal Twitter detailing the idea and asking for support. It has since grown with the creation of a website and its own Twitter account. The goal: to hand out stickers to every student marching in the March 24 MarchForOurLives in the nation’s capital. Each sticker has a year printed on it, representing the year in which students will be eligible to vote.
“The interest was enormous, definitely bigger than we expected. So we bought the domain name, we went on Twitter and set up an account, and then we started to get requests for stickers,” she said. “At this point we have shipped 10s of thousands.”
In three days, with the help of her parents, and several schoolmates including Brenna Levitan, a senior and coordinator for “MoCo For Gun Control,” Tyldesley has sent out thousands of stickers to schools in New York, California, Ohio, and Michigan, and a church in Chicago. They have also sent stickers to Columbine High School, the site one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history, and one of the first to occur at a school.
Tyldesley’s team is also printing over 10,000 to hand out directly at the march. “The hope is that for every school that has asked us for stickers, we’re giving them more then they need, in the hopes that they will go out to their marches and give whatever is left over to people marching,” Tyldesley said. “We intend to do the same thing [in DC]. My current plan is to go around and make everyone I know take a couple hundred stickers, bring them to the march, and hand them out.”
YearWeVote is raising money through a GoFundMe, which has raised $2,910 out of their $8,000 goal to date. Any excess money will be donated to organizations fighting for gun control.
They are spreading the word through listservs, social media, email, and by directly contacting student leaders at schools around the country. “The demand for stickers [has] grown far faster than our team or our fundraising, so there’s a little bit of scrambling right now, but it’s good,” she said. “It’s going really well, which is crazy to me because it’s been three days.”
Currently, they are working with several companies to print stickers in bulk, including StickerGiant, Online Labels, and a local business. “I mean you can’t really go to one place and say ‘please print us 50,000 stickers,’ they would freak out. So we separated it among a bunch of different places.” said Tyldesley. “I also have no idea how sticker printing words.” she said laughing.
Tyldesley hopes that the stickers will increase voter turnout among youth in upcoming elections, and put pressure on politicians to pass gun control legislation. “These stickers are mildly to scare politicians,” explained Tyldesley. “As soon as you can vote you need to be out there voting. We can’t scare politicians effectively if they know we’re not actually gonna show up to the polls.”
PHOTO COURTESY OF MARLENA TYLDESLEY