When James V. DeAmicis starts his second semester in January, he’ll also make history in his hometown of Quincy, Massachusetts—he’ll be sworn in as the youngest elected official in its 127-year history. On Election Day, the 19-year-old Suffolk freshman won a seat on the city’s six-member School Committee. Now DeAmicis will help guide the school system where he was a student for more than a decade.
“When people would ask me why I was running for school committee, I said it was because I had a student’s perspective,” says DeAmicis, who graduated from Quincy High School in June and is now a member of Suffolk’s Class of 2019. “I want to help people. That’s what I’ve always enjoyed—helping people and helping the community. It’s not a bad school system, but we can improve it.”Kenneth Cosgrove, a Suffolk associate professor of government, first met DeAmicis at a summer registration event, and the incoming freshman mentioned that he was running for public office in Quincy. Cosgrove was impressed and invited DeAmicis to stop by his office anytime to talk about his campaign strategy, especially how to “seal the deal” and get out the vote. Cosgrove was “delighted” when DeAmicis won his four-year term.
“He’s a smart, polished young man; he’s willing to learn; and he listens. You can’t teach that,” Cosgrove says. “He’s got the perspective, and he can talk about the school experience like no one else can.”
Involved from a young age
With his enthusiastic personality and warm smile, DeAmicis seems like he was born for a life in politics. For as long as he can remember, he enjoyed doing volunteer work either in school or as an extracurricular activity, driven by a need to be “involved,” he says.
“It really started kicking off when I was in middle school and I got involved in community service clubs dealing with fundraising and organizing drives for the community nonprofits in Quincy,” DeAmicis says. “I loved working with my peers, the staff at the school, and just trying to make a difference within the community.”
While still in high school, he got an internship at the State House with Rep. Bruce Ayers of Quincy, which gave DeAmicis his first up-close taste of the political world.
“Just being a part of that government process of helping people with these constituent issues, that’s what I really enjoyed,” he says.
A push into the political arena
Still, DeAmicis admits that launching his own political campaign while he was a high school senior bound for Suffolk wasn’t his idea. Politics wasn’t part of his life growing up as the oldest of four children. (His brother and two sisters all attend Quincy public schools.) His mother, who handles insurance in the medical field, and his father, a Teamster, weren’t involved in politics.
Friends, family, and colleagues, who believed DeAmicis’ fresh experiences as a Quincy public school student would be just as a valuable as seasoned political skill, encouraged him. A month before he graduated from high school, he filed papers declaring his candidacy.
“I went to the city clerk’s office after school, and it was one of the happiest moments in my life. It felt like a huge accomplishment to me,” he says. “On that day, I was just levitating. I couldn’t believe what I was doing.”
After filing his papers, DeAmicis immediately hit the streets, introducing himself to voters. “I was campaigning every day during the summer; that was my summer vacation—door knocking in the community and going to different events.”
Hopes to inspire others
He maintained that pace even as he was acclimating to life as a college freshman. Now that the campaign is done, DeAmicis hopes his election can inspire others in his age to get more directly engaged with politics.
“I truly believe I belong to this network of young leaders who want to step in and at least take a chance, whether we win or lose,” he says. “We want to take this opportunity to get more involved with our city, state, or federal government. I want to push for more involvement within our generation. I truly think we’ve lost this sense of having a voice, and I think we should concentrate on what this next generation wants. And I’m honored to be in a position to be a part of that.”