PHILADELPHIA – Hillary Clinton isn't the only one making history this week.
A handful of teens and early twenty-somethings — some not even old enough to vote — flocked to Philadelphia to serve as the youngest delegates from their states at the Democratic National Convention.
Zenaida Huerta, a 17-year-old Bernie Sanders-pledged delegate from California, has been involved in the political world for as long as she can remember and is the youngest delegate from her state.
"I was compelled to be a delegate because I could defend the issues, and I felt like I was representing thousands and millions of voters — young voters and Latino youth in particular — who are crucial to the survival of the Democratic Party," Huerta said.
Zenaida's father, Henry Huerta, would take her to marches and rallies at a young age. But it was attending a Sanders rally last year, she said, that inspired her to be at the forefront of this year's election.
Huerta created and managed a pro-Sanders group at her high school that canvassed, held phone banks, and registered voters for the candidate throughout the local district. But stirring up excitement for the self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist took a bit of convincing, she said.
"My high school wasn't really the most progressive environment," Huerta said, "so I had to really adapt the skill to articulate the issues and to defend the issues."
With a desire to further their involvement in Sanders' movement, Huerta and her father ran to be delegates for their district and won.
At the convention this week, Huerta has spent much of her free time interacting with other young delegates, she said. They meet up at Youth Caucuses or group chat about all things political. They especially like to discuss the implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and climate change, she said — two issues on which the young Bernie and Hillary supporters' opinions seem to be in agreement.
Another thing most have in common: being students, which affects many of their political stances.
Nathan Sidell, a 19-year-old Sanders delegate from Alaska, said it was the candidate's stance on education that first drew him in.
"For me, student debt is just this massive problem," Sidell said. "I mean, I took out student loans last week to pay for my upcoming semester, and my interest rate on these loans is at 10.3 percent. Could you imagine having a mortgage at 10.3? Could you imagine a car loan at 10.3? It's this chain that will be around my foot from the very beginning, and Bernie's tackling that."
Another young Sanders delegate, 18-year-old Jada Peten from Arkansas, has always been particularly interested in legislation that directly impacts students and youth. But this is the first time she's been drawn to a particular candidate.
Clinton was officially nominated this week as the Democratic Party candidate and accepted her nomination on Thursday. But Peten plans to stay active in the political arena and encourages other young Americans to do the same.
"Get out there, learn about what's being passed in your state and what's being passed at a federal level that relates to you, so that we can get out there and start getting our voices heard and start making changes," Peten said.
Reach Staff Reporter Sarah Collins here.