The creaks in the floor of the Ottawa County Democratic Party Headquarters Office echo off the wood floor and block walls. Every sound is amplified.
The walls are decorated with various campaign posters for the upcoming election and voter registration forms line the wall behind a conference table.
It’s here, on the outskirts of downtown Holland, that senior Jackson Schulte spends his Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., fielding phone calls, helping visitors and catching up on the news. He’s worked here since early April 2018.
Schulte has long been politically active and opinionated, so when the opportunity arose to work on a politically charged topic, he jumped at the chance.
After the Stoneman Douglas shooting took place in Parkland Florida, Schulte decided to become active in working to achieve what supporters call common sense gun legislation in Michigan and even the U.S. as a whole.
In March 2018, Schulte and other students organized a walkout to show their support of stricter gun legislation and to stand in solidarity with the Parkland students who lost their best friends to a gunman.
He notes a correlation between how easy it is for an individual to obtain a firearm in the U.S. and the number of mass shootings here as compared to other countries. But, he also said he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
“What makes America great is that we have the ability and capability to disagree with the government,” Schulte said. “As long as we live in the U.S., we should take full advantage of that right even if it contradicts current laws or legislation.”
And that’s why Schulte got involved with the walkout, and ultimately March For Our Lives, in the first place: to make a difference.
His resume of activism opportunities is impressive. Schulte has interned for multiple Democratic candidates for office in the last two years including Dr. Rob Davidson (U.S. House election 2018), Abdul El-Sayed (gubernatorial election 2018) and Governor Gretchen Whitmer during her gubernatorial election in 2018.
In addition to his internships, Schulte has expanded his role on other activist fronts related to gun sense legislation.
In November, Schulte was selected to attend the Not My Generation Summit in Washington, D.C. where he worked with other student activists like himself to lobby Congressmen on the House and Senate floors.
“It was a great opportunity to do some networking,” Schulte said. “A lot of activism is making connections for the future. It was also just a lot of fun to have some real-world experience.”
Not My Generation is an organization dedicated to halting gun violence across America and advocating for stricter gun legislation. One of the allies he made at the summit in D.C. was the Southeast Regional Coordinator for Not My Generation, Rhea Varma.
“He was really excited, I could just tell on the first day of the conference,” Varma said. “He had a really good energy, he wasn’t really stressed out or anxious about meeting with people, he just loved to interact with the people.”
It’s people like Varma who make up Schulte’s support circle. People who believe in him making a difference in the world. Notably, among his family, his father Joe Schulte has been greatly impressed with the work Jackson has accomplished.
“I like to see him motivated about something that he feels is important,” Joe said. “Because he doesn’t stand to receive any personal gain, but yet he’s really motivated to work for these things for the greater good.”
Jackson and his dad don’t always see eye-to-eye on political issues. But Joe made a point to note how they find common ground on many issues by having a productive dialogue about them. It’s a trait Joe is glad to see Jackson carry into the world.
“I think it’s nice that he understands that people can talk politics and disagree and still be civil and respectful to other people’s views,” Joe said. “Just because we don’t necessarily agree with each other doesn’t mean we can’t get along.”
This trait has made Jackson versatile in situations where he’s working with opposite-minded people. When he’s lobbied on the floor of Congress, when people visit the Ottawa Dems office to talk about issues, or even when he’s sitting at the dinner table.
Although Jackon has been a devoted activist for nearly two years, little gain has been made on the legislation front. However, he was quick to cite that change is often a long, winding road.
“The biggest thing about activism is remembering that you’re laying the groundwork,” Schulte said. “I have to remind myself sometimes that I may not see this through, but even if I don’t see it through, I need to make sure that I do my best work.”