Finding himself dissatisfied by America’s political landscape, Gabe McGuire ’24 was intrigued by the Forward Party, researched the party’s platform, and became involved on the state level.
“They’re taking the right steps, or what I believe to be the right steps, in reforming the political culture of the United States,” said Gabe, who initially reached out to the party last summer. “They had a lot of great opportunities for me to get involved.”
Founded by former Democratic 2020 presidential and 2021 New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, the Forward Party promotes a grassroots approach to government.
“Some of the key values are vibrant communities, open democracy, and free people,” Gabe said, noting that Forward appears to be an emerging third party. “It really takes a different stance because the way they conduct themselves is with morality first, and their focus is as a body, instead of putting policy change at the head of their party. That ensures that whatever policy change they do, it will follow those guidelines.”
Gabe’s role is manager of the Pennsylvania Forward Party’s social media. He works on the state committee and leads the fundraising committee’s efforts to communicate party goals and strategy.
Christian Fyke, chair of the Pennsylvania Forward Party, said Gabe followed four steps that are important for anyone interested in becoming involved in an organization.
“He showed up, he respectfully participated, he volunteered when there was a need, and he took initiative,” Fyke said. “Those four simple steps got him to a point where he’s a very instrumental part of what we’re building.
“He’s been very reliable, even though it was evident how busy he is.”
When he became involved, Gabe was the youngest person “by at least 25 years,” but other committee members have welcomed him into their discussions. As the party has grown, Gabe has seen a spike in younger members, including among leadership, and he is actively working to grow that demographic.
“Most people didn’t actually know that I was a high school student until I told them that I’d have to leave one of our summits a little bit early to go to prom,” said Gabe, who turned 17 in May. “They were a little surprised by that, seeing that a majority of the people are older.”
He’s not old enough to vote, or even collect signatures, yet his devotion to the cause and maturity during meetings have allowed him to win a spot at the party’s table.
“I was really interested in communicating and getting in touch with youth who are interested, so naturally I made my way to social media and communications,” Gabe said. “Recently, I’ve also been working with the fundraising committee, and we’ve been active on a fundraising campaign. We've made significant progress.”
Gabe has been active in Mercersburg’s Model UN program, participating in competitions at Georgetown University and Columbia University.
“Model UN really prepared me to think on my feet, to do really good and thoughtful work, but also just to be able to speak on the spot and really to elaborate on points,” Gabe said. “I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of the discussion that goes on in the political realm.”
Still, working with the Forward Party experience has been different from what he expected.
“When I initially thought about working with political parties, I thought, ‘Hey, this is just going to be a space where everybody exercises the same opinions,’ but working for the Forward Party, I’ve learned that there’s really a lot of diversity in thought that goes on behind the scenes, and that people are doing this in their free time because they really care,” Gabe said. “Every effort that my peers put in to make the country and the state a better place really comes from a place of self-devotion, and love for the state.
“In terms of the work and what goes on behind the scenes, I’ve really learned what it takes to communicate with a voting body. I learned a lot about campaign laws and finance laws. I haven’t had that much formal interaction with fundraising. Now I feel quite confident in my ability to solicit funds and to lead this campaign, in everything from a phone-a-thon to sending out emails to reach out to donors. It’s really kick-started my political career that I hope to aspire to in the future.”
He’s exploring college possibilities, and plans to study political science, focusing on international relations, with a subfocus on American politics, and a dual major in philosophy, all of which he acknowledges will involve a heavy writing requirement.
“I’ve always had a love for writing, so I found that the work I do with Forward and with Model UN feels natural," Gabe said. “I’m exploring the things that I’ve come to love.”
After college, he plans to pursue a law degree, preferably in international law, with an eye on a career in diplomacy or political representation within the U.S. government.
“I can totally see myself being a representative and running for an elected position, but I can also see myself working with NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and political parties because I found that their work is extremely important, and it’s arguably just as important as some of the work that the representatives do.”
At Mercersburg, Gabe has played on the varsity lacrosse team for three years, is on the Mercersburg News staff, is student co-chair of the Conduct Review Committee (CRC), is a prefect, works at the Language Media Center (LMC), and plans to assist at The Writing Center. He’s also part of the Chorale and the Chapel choir.
This year, Gabe will be deputy secretary general of Model UN and the student chair of the CRC, said Director of Global Initiatives Justine O’Connell, a member of the Mercersburg language faculty who serves as adviser of Model UN and faculty chair of the CRC.
“Gabe is an incredibly talented and intelligent young person,” O’Connell said. “He takes the lead in the discussions, but also takes time to hear other voices."
Gabe said Tim Kerr, David Bell P ’17, ’18, and Michele Poacelli P ’24, ’26 (Gabe’s mom) are among the faculty members who have made a difference in his education.
“They really promote this inquisitive nature within students, and I think that has encouraged me to stick with Forward and to continue to be involved. I really appreciated their open ear as I’ve gone through this experience,” Gabe said. “It’s also a little cheesy to say, but I owe a lot to my mom. She’s one of the most thoughtful and strongest critical thinkers I know. It has really helped me become more connected to what I do, because I’m thinking about why I’m involved and what this means to me.”
While he has had a good experience working with the Forward Party, he said it’s important to consider the time commitments that out-of-school activities require.
“Mercersburg is very, very time heavy,” Gabe said. “It takes a lot of commitment to be actively engaged with leadership within the school. When kids pursue things outside of school, it usually means that they care a lot about what they’re doing. Personally, I’ve always been interested in fair elections and creating the best possible political scene for the electorate, and so I believe that Forward Party is a perfect fit for me. It really upholds values that I believe in.
“My advice would be to find something that you truly care about, and find something that you have a passion for, because it makes everything that much more rewarding.”