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Speaking up; 16-year-old Williamsville teen takes up cause to allow working teens to vote

"No taxation without representation."

This famous slogan paved the way for the American Revolution in the 18th century. Today, 16-year-old Marc Cohen's mission is inspired by the groundwork of our nation. Through a driven and passionate effort, Marc, of Williamsville, is beginning to lay his own groundwork toward achieving adequate representation in the voting body for young taxpayers.

"If they see me fit to pay taxes, then they should see me fit to vote," Marc says.

Influenced by the promises contained in both the foundation of our nation's freedom, the Declaration of Independence, and the backbone of America's government, the Constitution, at just 15 years old Marc began speaking out on this issue.

For the Williamsville East High School junior, getting started on the endeavor was as easy as "figuring out an issue which I really wanted to attack and that I believed in."

There are young people today who are working fair and honest jobs, and being taxed by both the state and federal governments. So Marc says he asked himself: Why don't young people such as myself have a say in electing the leaders whose salaries are supported by the taxes we are paying?

More than a year ago, Marc assumed his civic responsibility to raise awareness about the inequality in the voting age restrictions. His mission has been most importantly about expressing himself because of the opportunity he has as an American teenager.

The cause is what has guided Marc over the course of his campaign to raise awareness. Marc attributes his greatest success to the meetings he has had with multiple government officials regarding this issue, including Assembly members Sam Hoyt, Jane Corwin and Jim Hayes, former Rep. John LaFalce, State Senators Mike Ranzenhofer and Tim Kennedy and even then-Gov. David Paterson.

Marc expresses the notion that encompasses his goal: "To make a difference and do what you know is right even if they disagree with you."

Those who disagree with Marc's position have included everyone from other teens to highly ranked government representatives. But Marc stresses that he does not want to come across to others as a lobbyist or children's suffrage advocate, but more so as a curious young person who is exercising his rights by making others cognizant of the incongruous aspect of the voting and taxation system.

"I do not expect to amend the Constitution in 15 minutes," Marc says.

However, Marc's discussions with government representatives give rise to his hopes of one day arriving at actual change.

He has upcoming meetings scheduled with Hayes and State Sen. Mark Grisanti.

Marc attributes his biggest obstacle when presenting his point to these notable officials thus far: "[It is] being able to handle the rejection when people say that they don't understand your point at all."

Marc continues to seek answers from knowledgeable government officials he speaks with. And with fears of rejection aside, he is an example of a young person who is not only assertive in his beliefs, but also taking action.

"I want people to lead by my example -- you've got to make sure you have your voice," he says.


Natalie Murphy is a senior at City Honors.

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