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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