Yara Shahidi on Getting Out the Youth Vote: ‘Hopefully We See Change Coming This Midterms’

Even before turning 18 in February, Yara Shahidi encouraged Gen-Z to engage politically via Eighteen x 18.

“There are two major problems: information dissemination and voter registration,” the Black-ish star, who is one of PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World, says in this week’s issue.

Though Shahidi, who was accepted to Harvard for this year, believes “anyone who follows me knows where I lean,” her organization remains nonpartisan.

“The information disseminated should allow us to look at each topic at hand and form our own opinions and allow that to determine your partisanship, rather than the other way around,” she says.

And Shahidi won’t let backlash over actors, musicians and athletes getting political stop her from speaking out.

“If your very body is being politicized, you have every right to speak up and should be able to utilize your platform,” the Minnesota native asserts. “It’s not a matter of being an actor or an actress, but being a human that’s concerned and affected by the world at hand.”

In September, Eighteen x 18 hosted its first #WeVoteNext summit in Los Angeles so Shahidi could directly connect young people.

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“It was a nice group of kids because each state was represented,” the actress says. “It was a moment to actually talk to each other about what we want to see in our political system, in this midterm election. So rather than me saying, ‘I’m the voice of Generation Z or somebody who knows every single person in my peer group,’ we actually got to talk to each other and figure out what we wanted and what we needed and take local approaches.”

Shahidi, who comes from a family of educators, thinks the motivation for young people to vote starts with learning history — but admits that the current curriculum has its flaws.

“I feel like often times, you’re only told about your government in your U.S. government class or U.S. history, and even still, it’s of the government of the 18th century. How does that even apply?” she asks. “Having learned a very Euro-centric history, often times there is no correlation between us and our duty to the people around us. I think that history should be restructured. And those classes should be restricted to be more inclusive.”

For full coverage of PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World, pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday

But with early voting numbers already breaking records, the Grown-ish actress remains optimistic about the future. “I’m inspired that hopefully we see change coming this midterms,” Shahidi says. “My goal is that it’s a culture that’s here to stay.”


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Hillary Clinton, Yara Shahidi Keynote Teen Vogue Summit in L.A.

“Thanks so much for all of your help,” Hillary Rodham Clinton said backstage at the inaugural Teen Vogue Summit on Saturday morning. As she posed for a photo with a large group of police officers at 72 and Sunny’s Playa Vista campus in Los Angeles, Clinton told the photographer, “This is a very important group. Take a good picture.” The former Secretary of State and presidential candidate had just completed the opening keynote conversation with activist and “Black-ish” actress Yara Shahidi.
While the question-and-answer session lasted 40 minutes, it took less than seven for the discussion to shift toward the previous night’s vote on tax reform. “In the last 24 hours, the Senate passed this absolutely horrible tax-cut plan,” Clinton said, as the crowd booed in support of her sentiment. “It’s great for Donald Trump and his family. It’s great for the billionaires who support him, but it’s going to make life much harder for middle-class families and poor families. It even cuts the tax deduction for teachers who buy supplies for their classrooms and their students.”

“Now it takes care of you if you have a private yacht or a private plane,” she continued, “but heaven forbid if you buy some

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Black-ish’s Yara Shahidi: ‘I Got Into Every College I Applied to’

Yara Shahidi hasn’t announced where she’ll be attending college, but she has quite a few options to choose from.

The 17-year-old Black-ish star revealed in an interview with Seventeen on Monday that she only got acceptance letters back — no rejections — from the schools that she applied to.

“I did get all of my college acceptances and I’m keeping them close to the belt as of right now, but I got into every college I applied to,” Shahidi, who plays Zoey on the ABC comedy, shared.

“So that’s really exciting. I found all of that out last week,” she said, and added, “My college plans are all up in the air, but I will choose within the next month.”

Last October, Shahidi told PEOPLE that she plans to defer college for at least a year. “I know when Malia Obama announced , she got a lot of slack, but I feel like what’s interesting is I know so many people that are deferring. It’s more than to just roam around or just sit down and stare at a wall, but it will also give me an opportunity to work,” Shahidi said. “I’ve been working more than half of my life and that’s always been balanced with school and all of the other responsibilities, so to have a year to focus on work and to focus on specified interests will be nice before I pick a career and choose what I want to study and my life path.”

“I think no matter what, I know that I want to go to college. I know that I’m going to defer a year and I’m willing to have a more unorthodox college experience, but at a certain point I want to be on a campus,” she continued.

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The teen actress told the publication that although she has not yet decided on a minor, she definitely wants to focus on two majors.

“I want to study as much as possible and a double major is the solution,” said Shahidi, who plans to double major in African American studies and sociology.

As for what the ABC starlet aspires to be, she lists both Solange Knowles and her TV mom Tracee Ellis Ross as two life role models — for differing reasons.

“There’s so many different people for different reasons. I think when it comes to fashion and just her aura, I like Solange. And then also Tracee is such a great example. She went to Brown, she got her honorary doctorate from Brown, what what,” Shahidi said.

“There are so many people, who have found ways to balance school, life, career — all of it,” she continued. “And what I realized is that even with college, my wonder and desire to study sociology stems from the same desire I have to be an actor just in the understanding of humans and I realize that’s what I’m fascinated in — understanding humans.”

Black-ish airs Wednesdays (9:30 p.m. ET) on ABC.


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