I consider it a grave mistake not to take an interest in what's going on in a democracy. Look at the efforts made to get even displaced residents of New Orleans to vote in their mayoral race! Even under normal circumstances, every effort is made to get folks to PARTICIPATE in the election process, from being able to register to vote about anywhere to having "absentee" balloting beginning well before election day itself. There is actually no excuse I can think of for eligible electors not to vote.
Actually, one doesn't have to be of age and eligible to vote to be heard by your officials. A frequent claim we hear is "There's nothing for youngsters to do around here!" Believe it or not, some of the city officials will agree with you.
EM, you and your classmates are onto something, realizing that without new ideas, things are either going to stay the way they are or get worse. Ideas come from CREATIVE THINKING. That can also be used to try and address some of the brush offs you might have to contend with, such as "no money", a favorite ruse if the particular jurisdiction is strapped for cash. Investigate alternate approaches. Rally supporters and compare notes. Not much happens in a vaccum. NUMBERS seem to have an interesting effect on City Halls, and not just those with dollar signs.
Definitely get to know who your aldermen/city council reps are. They're there to represent YOU, remember? Let them know what YOU are concerned about. Guess what? They don't hear from their constituents, they think everything is groovy and ticking right along but WE know better, right?
I would suggest EVERYONE attend their next ward/council/town or other public meeting. That goes for school and board/commission meetings that are open to the public also. At least get a working knowledge of the "system", THEN decide if you're going to continue to sit back and let things continue the way they are.