WEST DES MOINES, Iowa, 7:44 PM — Zachary Hayes and Justin Jodoin are seventeen. So are Drew Sorge and Matt Stilwell. All four students turn eighteen before November’s general election and — according to Iowa election law — are eligible to participate in the caucus. And caucus they have, making their political voices heard for the first time.

Tonight, they stood with Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

“I think out of all the other candidates, I like best his idea of change,” Stilwell explained. “I like his idea of a United States and not a ‘divided’ states. I’ve seen him speak — I think he has the leadership to do it.”

Change was a powerful theme among these four, and among Iowa voters at large.

This evening, Obama garnered 57 percent of the votes from those citing a ‘need for change’ as their primary motivation for caucusing, CNN reported. But for this crowd, New York Senator Hillary Clinton’s pitch fell on deaf ears.

“Who is she to say if [Obama’s] ready to lead or not? So what if he wasn’t first lady?” Jodoin asked. “Sometimes less is more.”

The presence of young people was enough to make one Obama supporter remark that, given the age demographic of this older Des Moines suburb, the abundance of youth was impressive.

“What’s interesting is this side of Des Moines is really the older side of Des Moines, in terms of age, and we’ve got a lot of kids here,” he said.

Impressive or not, the turnout of youth voters here in West Des Moines may be a sign that rumblings of a youth-vote explosion in this year’s caucus were in fact no red herring. At Valley High School nearby, where these three go to school, there was certainly an effort to get out the vote.

“They were actually promoting it a lot at school,” Jodoin says, unzipping his jacket to show the “Rock the Caucus” t-shirt he got at a school event. Buttons and pre-paid phone cards are also among the paraphernalia Valley High students received in order to get them excited about the caucuses.

It seems these four were excited enough already — Drew Sorge even dragged his mother, a registered Republican who had never caucused before — to the Democratic contest. Although she did not participate, she said she was “very proud of her son.”

Sorge said he plans to stay involved in politics. Of course, as a young man in Iowa, you don’t really have a choice. Either you involve yourself in politics, or politics gets involved with you.

Tonight, these four — along with thousands of first-time caucus-goers across the Hawkeye State — chose the former.

-Zack Abrahamson