Who Represents Me? Seniors Work to Educate St. Louis


Eleanor Hohenberg

John Burroughs seniors Ziyaad Raza, Rahul Jasti, Josh Antony, and Thomas Champer all knew that they should do something with the free time that online school and stay-at-home orders offered this past spring. The only question was what that endeavor should be. The boys knew that they wanted to have an impact on their community, so they met for several hours every week, discussing everyday problems and how they might fix them.

One fact, in particular, stuck with them and prompted the start of their nonpartisan nonprofit: a Harvard report found that “just 10 percent of Americans between 18 and 24 met a standard of ‘informed engagement’ in the 2012 presidential election cycle.” (Source: Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics) The purpose of the organization they created, The Objective Reporter, is to increase the number of young voters who are knowledgeable about the representatives and politics of their municipality and state.

The Objective Reporter does not advocate for any particular policies or parties; this choice stemmed from witnessing the heightening tensions and conflicts nationally and within the school. The goal of their organization is to provide young people with an overview of politicians’ views, but with so much going on in students’ lives, it can be difficult to spend a significant amount of time researching candidates for political offices. Ziyaad Raza, one of the Co-Founders, learned that it could take anywhere from 30-40 minutes to find useful and truthful information on just one candidate. The Objective Reporter hopes to “take that time… and instead of spending it [learning about] one person, to spend it on ten different politicians, with their main points listed on a simple template,” Raza explained. The Objective Reporter accomplishes this by clearly formatting politician’s stances on the most prominent issues about which young people care.


In addition to providing a summary of politicians’ views, The Objective Reporter has also conducted multiple interviews with Missouri representatives and candidates. They first built up connections by approaching politicians at in-person (but socially-distanced) events and secured several interviews that way. This then helped establish trust in the website and organization, so when they “emailed and called every single politician in St. Louis,” Jasti recounts, many were happy to be interviewed. The team remains in contact with the local politicians and the members have begun to create connections with more prominent figures such as St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page.

The Objective Reporter has grown significantly as an organization since it originated late last spring. It started by reaching out to friends and family for assistance, and a website was subsequently created. Donations aided the team in advertising the organization, setting up the website, and bringing their page to the top of the Google search for “The Objective Reporter.” Now, this organization has interviewed multiple Missouri politicians, gained over thirty team members, been written about in the Ladue News, and has started working on new chapters in cities outside of St. Louis. “Any city has the same problem as St. Louis,” Jasti said, namely that young people are under-informed and under-represented in their local elections. When a couple of students in Dallas and Atlanta reached out to the group, interested in fixing that issue in their municipalities, the JBS seniors worked to expand their organization into those cities.

The team does not plan on stopping after the upcoming presidential elections or when the senior leaders leave for college. While during the aftermath of this election the organization might regroup and reorganize, they will continue to report on the policies and government positions which come to a vote more frequently than the presidency. In regards to the way The Objective Reporter may look as its founders move on to college, nothing is yet set in stone, except for the fact that these seniors certainly expect to remain involved in some capacity. They hope to look to younger members to take on leadership roles and continue to develop the nonprofit.

Raza, Jasti, Antony, Champer, and their team members continue to work to make local politics easily accessible to younger demographics. If you are interested in learning more about your representatives, simply head to theobjectivereporter.com/search-politicians.