“We young people have a big part in this election. We can’t rely on our elders to take care of things in our country anymore.”

This is one thing Jose Santos learned through his experience as a local poll worker during the March and August elections in Patagonia.

Another important lesson is to go to bed early. Showing up at Cady Hall before six a.m. to set up the election booths and help people vote is challenging, but it does help when your brother is doing it with you.

Jose, 18, and his brother Alex, 17, were recruited by Patagonia Youth Enrichment Center Director Anna Coleman and started with a training and polling work last spring. The sons of Susana and Saul Santos of Patagonia, they were initially drawn by the opportunity to fulfill community service requirements and add the work to their college resumes. The pay was attractive as well, at $50 for the required three-hour training and $150 for the day’s work.

But their experience brought lessons they did not anticipate.

“I learned about the positions up for election, and what they do and what the candidates believe in, Alex said. “I don’t like to hear people say, ‘My first choice isn’t in there so I won’t vote.’ I feel like everyone should vote if you can. Now I’m frustrated that I can’t vote this time, because I won’t be 18 till next year. But I’ll work the polls in November if they need me.”

Alex is a senior at Patagonia High School.

Jose began to think about politics differently during the process.

“I realized that young people are going to be becoming the ones who run the government,” he said. “We have to step up and get into those roles and lead our government into the future and into a better place.”

A freshman studying Cybersecurity at Pima Community College this fall, Jose thinks his classwork may keep him from working the polls in November. But he’ll be voting.

More workers are needed for the general election. Anyone interested can contact Michelle Martinez at the Santa Cruz County Elections Department at (520) 375-7808 or 520 375-7636 for more information. Training will begin mid-October.