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Jacksonville teen with sickle cell anemia votes for the first time Tuesday on his 18th birthday

Kwaseem Scruggs tells other young people it's important to make their voices heard at the polls.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Battling a serious disease and the complications that come along with it isn't stopping an 18-year-old Jacksonville teenager from making his voice heard at the polls, and that's not the only thing making Tuesday special for the high school senior. 

“I feel like mostly I’m just exercising my right. For a long time, people like me weren’t able to, so I’m just taking advantage of the opportunity I have," said Kwaseem Scruggs, a first-time voter. 

Kwaseem Scruggs and his mom Marvina celebrated voting together Tuesday afternoon in Brentwood. It's a big day for the teen for another reason as well. 

“Today is my birthday," Scruggs said. "I’m turning 18 today, and I’m also voting for the first time today.”

Scruggs has overcome a lot in his young life, and Election Day was no exception. He was in pain and felt sick the whole day, but he still found the strength to come out and cast his first vote at the polls.

Credit: Marvina Scruggs
Kwaseem Scruggs has battled sickle cell anemia his whole life.

He has sickle cell anemia, a painful and life-threatening disease he's battled his whole life. 

“I learned to grow with it," Scruggs said. "I learned to be more adaptable with it, but it does pose challenges, like not being able to do things that everyone else gets to do or limiting the activities I get to do.”

Scruggs has a message for other people his age.

“Young people, go vote. It’s important. As a citizen, it’s your right. It’s almost like your civil duty," Scruggs said.

The teen exercised his right to vote while making big plans for his future. Scruggs wants to go to college and become a veterinarian.