COLUMBUS (WCMH) – A young group of Central Ohioans is dipping their toes into the complex world of Ohio politics – some more than a decade before they can legally vote.
Wednesday, the “Pint Size Protesters” group took part in a Lobby Day with several state lawmakers.
“My biggest hope is that she just knows and understands more than I did,” said Jamille Jones of her 6-year-old Zuli.
The Gahanna mother founded Pint Size Protesters as demonstrations erupted in Ohio and nationwide in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. She explained she wanted to create a family-friendly forum to help parents answer children’s questions and involve them in the social movement.
“It was a lot of ‘what is that? What’s going on?’ As a Black family it was a lot of questions about, ‘Well are we safe?’” Jones said. “We recognized and realized and had lots of friends who were like, ‘Oh wow, we really want to get our kids and our families involved.’ But we were uncomfortable coming downtown.”
The group grew from a social media page to in-person discussions and civic engagement opportunities. More than a year later, Jones’ collaborated with her local politician, State Representative Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville), to create a new educational opportunity.
“Their mission I think is to get the parents to understand how to explain these ideas to the children and to engage them in what’s going on in the world around them,” Lightbody said. “[We’re] finding a way to express what are complex ideas, not only in a way that the kids can understand, but also that are not inflammatory or hyper-political in any way.”
For several hours Wednesday morning, several lawmakers led discussions with small groups of children ages 6-10.
Lightbody, a longtime school teacher, talked about equity in education. Representative Beth Liston (D-Dublin), a physician, explained healthcare policies. Representative Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) hosted a civic engagement forum. The lawmakers condensed the complex topics into age-appropriate lessons with visuals and activities.
“It’s a matter of bite-sized pieces, understanding what they can take in and just letting the kid guide. They ask questions, we just answer them,” explained Jones.
Lobby Day concluded with a Statehouse tour and a short luncheon. It was the first year of the event, but organizers hope to make it an annual tradition.
“I’m really hopeful that when the time comes for them to vote, they understand that it’s so much more than that,” Jones said. “And that they’ll get involved in their communities and they’ll get involved in their local government before then… so when their voting time comes they’ll know what to do and how to use their voices.”