Advocating for Change
Running Start Student Steps into Student Body Vice President Role.
With a passion for immigrant and human rights, politics and government, Highline College student Clara Swart, 17, isn’t wasting any time.
In just one year at Highline, Swart has managed to intern, work at the Highline Bookstore and Writing Center, and get elected as vice president of the Associated Students of Highline College (ASHC) for the 2023-24 academic year –– all on top of her pursuit of an associate degree with an emphasis in political science as a Running Start student. The program allows her to enroll at Highline and Mount Rainier High School dually.
“A year ago, I couldn’t imagine I would be where I am today,” Swart said. “… The professors and staff here at Highline are among the most influential people I have met and spoken to. Highline has helped me lay a concrete foundation, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Swart became curious about politics and government in 2021 when she participated in a world government study abroad program in Amsterdam. She then pursued her interest by serving on U.S. Rep. Adam Smith’s Youth Advisory Council and working as a page for Washington state Rep. Mia Gregerson.
“I also participated in YMCA Youth and Government and have interned at The Borgen Project, a nonprofit organization working to make global poverty a focus of U.S. foreign policy,” the Des Moines resident said. “Political science has become my passion.”
After enrolling at Highline in 2022 and connecting with her instructors, Swart applied that passion to higher education.
During her first quarter at Highline, Swart’s English instructor, Shon Meckfessel, encouraged her to work as a writing tutor. As she helped students with their writing, she also got involved in a research project that focused on improving the English department at Highline.
“This gave me the experience I needed to solidify my career pathway in advocacy,” Swart said, noting her political science instructor, T.M. Sell, has also been incredibly influential.
Months later, Swart was drawn to the opportunity of running for ASHC vice president. Although she’s dealt with feelings of imposter syndrome and anxiety, Swart knew she would regret not trying. The election included an open forum where students listened to her share ideas for her position. Despite her first time running, Swart’s fellow student body elected her vice president.
“I was actually at the Washington State capitol for YMCA Youth and Government when I got the call from [former ASHC] President Mahad Dahir telling me I won, so that was a dream,” Swart recalled. “I immediately told everyone near me. I worked hard during the election and couldn’t wait to serve my student body. I would have expected my mind to begin racing, but it was surprisingly content.”
Upon her election and the start of her vice presidency, Swart decided her primary goal is to listen to the needs and wants of her fellow students while working collaboratively to improve Highline College. She believes in creating an agenda with her peers rather than imposing one, ensuring that the student body’s voice is at the forefront of decision-making.
Upon graduation from Highline in 2024, Swart hopes to attend a four-year university (either University of Washington Seattle or Georgetown University) and law school before pursuing her career in law and politics, working as an immigrant and human rights lawyer.
“I have the privilege of fighting for those who may not have the means to advocate for themselves,” Swart said, “and I want to exercise that privilege as much as possible.”