Long Valley, New Jersey
Medium: Is there one particular political issue that you’re especially passionate about?
Olivia Ferrucci: I’m the most frustrated by and the most passionate about gun control. As a high school student in America, I’m constantly in an environment where I’m statistically prone to experience gun violence. And there isn’t much being done on the legislative side to change that. I know the gun control debate is never going to be solved with an ultimatum, but I think compromises are feasible. Banning rifles like the AR-15, increasing the minimum age to purchase any gun to 21 — those seem like reasonable next steps to me. I’ve interviewed students who survived the Parkland shooting, and it’s just become abundantly clear to me that our government needs to be more proactive in responding to gun violence in schools.
Are there any politicians whose values you feel align strongly with yours?
I love Julia Salazar — what a queen. Kamala Harris is absolutely brilliant. James Thompson. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez!
You work part-time as a server. How would you describe that experience?
I very quickly found myself surprised by how frequently and nonchalantly I was sexually harassed. Men — grown men, men who could’ve been my dad or my grandfather — gave me business cards, invited me to after-parties, shamelessly made bets on whether I was “old enough,” and frequently tucked dollar bills into the hem of my pants.
Ultimately, tipped wages and the power dynamic they implicate enable men to feel as though they are entitled to treat female waitresses like me however they please. And all of that behavior, however gross or sexual or misogynistic, is supposed to be okay because we still get paid. And that’s been really hard for me to continuously deal with, because it doesn’t and is never going to feel right. I’m 17 — I shouldn’t have to worry about blowing out a candle in fear of a 50-year-old man making it sexual.
What do adults get wrong about your generation?
We are so much more politically aware than we’re given credit for. And technology is very distinctly connected to that! My generation gets a bad rap for using social media, but Twitter has been such a formative part of my introduction to politics and social justice. I literally learned how to register to vote from a Twitter thread.
What keeps you up at night?
I’m a senior, so right now it’s mostly college apps and tests. But also — is what I’m doing right now significant? Should I be doing more for my community? Is our country always going to be like this?
Are you feeling optimistic or pessimistic your life right now, and are you optimistic about your future?
Right now, it feels like I’m at a crossroads in every part of my life. I’m going to college next year, still learning how to love myself, and still trying to figure out where I stand on everything politically. But I’m optimistic about the future. I want to go to college for English or journalism and write really uncomfortable, important stories that have weight. I want my generation collectively to do the hard work and change what today’s adults have done.
What’s been the hardest thing you’ve done so far?
I came out to my mom last year.
Are you interested in having a family at some point?
I don’t really know! I grew up telling myself I never wanted to have kids, especially because I’ve always been very career-oriented and didn’t even want to contemplate having to sacrifice that. But now I see a lot of women leading successful careers and raising children. It feels like more space is being allotted for women who are mothers in professional environments. So we’ll see.
This interview is part of The Edge of Adulthood: Forty-Six American Teens Discuss Their Lives, Their Struggles, and What’s Next.