By Claudia Oppelt – My original goal in writing this article was to somehow impress you with a list of reasons as to why young women should enter the world of politics with the detail, skill and finesse of a woman with years of experience, but as much as I would love to do that I can’t. My time in politics has been limited, one and a half years to be exact. Even though my experience in years has been minimal, I have grown many since I first entered.

Through sharing my personal journey, I hope young women reading this will gain some insight on how politics personally affects us, how one voice makes a huge impact, and why getting involved is rewarding both for your sense of self, and for your community.

Claudia_GOP_PassesElection 2012 was a year filled with many firsts and valuable lessons that I disliked at the time, but am so grateful to have experienced today. Throughout the 2012 presidential election I followed the campaigns, watched all of the debates and excitedly got to experience the Florida primary firsthand.

As the election cycle heated up, I knew I wanted to get involved and learn how a campaign works. A Romney victory campaign headquarters popped up near my home, and my mom thought it’d be wonderful for us to stop in and see what I could do to help.

When I visited the headquarters a few days later for information, I didn’t realize that campaigning would not only become my hobby and my passion, but also my teacher. By nature I’m an introvert so I constantly try to avoid anything that might bring me unwanted attention or cause me to speak up, and when I was first told I’d be phone banking, I was terrified.

This experience is one that has stuck with me, as it was vital in helping me to grow a thicker skin and forced me to learn how to defend my beliefs.The first two months I called people I was surprised at how rude and vulgar most of them were; although it made me feel awful, eventually I learned how to deal with them. This experience is one that has stuck with me, as it was vital in helping me to grow a thicker skin and forced me to learn how to defend my beliefs. Through phone banking I developed a newfound confidence, where I no longer feared talking on the phone or rejection of my convictions.

As a 16-year old girl who’s grown up in the internet age, I naturally gravitate towards social media as a means of communication. So, I figured starting a tumblr in support of Mitt Romney would be harmless. However, using social media as an outlet to express and garner support for your political beliefs was an entirely new game for me.

From behind the guise of the internet, hate filled questions and comments by anonymous users began to assemble in my ask box day after day, and the way in which I had learned to deal with spiteful people quickly disappeared.

Using social media as a tool to spark an online conversation made a huge impact. The site amassed the attention of thousands of people, both inside and outside of the United States, including the Republican National Committee.

In addition to growing as a person, I had undoubtedly found my voice and where I could make the biggest impact within politics as a young woman — on social media.

I would encourage any young woman to get involved even if you aren’t of voting age, because whether you’re making phone calls on behalf of your candidate or online actively supporting them, it’ll change your life.

As I was campaigning for Mitt Romney I was searching for my political identity and eventually found it months after the election. I’m indebted to the Romney campaign, as I fell hopelessly in love with politics while working on it. Even though I’ve learned that you’re constantly attacked for what you believe and whom you support without people having any regard as to why, politics has had a profound affect on my life and I’ll be forever grateful.

About the Contributor

Claudia_OppeltClaudia is a student living in Lakeland, FL.  She is A “STEM girl”, but is also a lover of anything associated with politics. Claudia is passionate about the Middle East and hopes to attend American University and eventually travel to Yemen.

A Vice Chair of her county’s Teenage Republican Club, Claudia is also working to start her own online political magazine for teenagers and young adults, and is working to get into the Senate Page program in D.C. Claudia hopes to one day meet her political inspirations… Hillary Clinton and Senator Olympia Snowe. Follow Claudia on Twitter.

A version of this article originally appeared on Smart Girls Loop.