AMBASSADOR SPOTLIGHT: Valencia Richardson, LSU
Valencia Richardson is a sophomore majoring in Mass Communication with a concentration in Political Communication and a minor in Spanish at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Valencia has worked on several door-to-door campaigns for local candidates in her hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana and is passionate about youth civic engagement and education. Valencia has served as an AGF Vote Everywhere Ambassador at LSU for the 2014-2015 academic year.
What voting or civic engagement problem have you identified on campus?
There was a general lack of civic engagement; lack of participation, and lack of knowledge among students at Louisiana State University. We identified that as a problem from the beginning. We wanted to increase student desire to become apart of the political process and to work on issues that matter to them. This semester we decided to bring up the Louisiana budget cuts. Right now, Louisiana colleges and universities are facing hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts as a result of a budget deficit. These cuts will devastate Louisiana colleges and LSU, in particular, will face cuts to resources, faculty and classes. We decided to make the budget crisis a point of issue, it’s so time sensitive and we must take action now.
What did your Vote Everywhere team do to solve the problem?
We hosted a forum where students had the opportunity to get together with leaders (which included LSU’s system president, the University of Louisiana system president, and the founder of the Louisiana non-profit, Louisiana Budget Project). Students submitted questions in advance and received the answers at the forum. We’re currently thinking through how to deliver those answers to the State Capital. So far, I have testified in front of the Louisiana Legislature House Appropriations Committee to deliver student questions, we’d also like to share these questions in another way as well. Our Vote Everywhere team is also participating in a letter writing campaign.
We aim to be a catalyst; no one asked students what they thought about the budget cuts, so we opened a dialogue. It’s about starting the conversation and empowering everyone else to come into it.
How has The AGF helped prepare (i.e. training) and/or support your work?
The AGF helped us hone in on an issue. It’s easy to have a problem and not know where to start. The AGF really guided us in the direction of getting from point A to B. We gained direction on problem solving. The resources provided by The AGF, enabled us to work on our projects and we’re really grateful.
How does your Vote Everywhere team work with other campus groups?
We’re a large school and we decided to partner with other schools to amplify our presence even more. We’ve partnered with other organizations with similar goals – we’re really proud of starting the conversation and having other organizations join in and follow.
What changed as a result of your initiative?
Students are being heard – by media, the legislators, and other leaders that have influence on the budget. Now they know students are watching. It’s really important that our voices are finally being heard. I had not done any community organizing, and it’s been an amazing experience to be involved in something that matters. It has affirmed what I want to do in the future – increasing civic engagement. The experience confirmed my convictions.
What does it mean to Vote Everywhere?
To Vote Everywhere is to be as loud as possible, as far and wide as possible, and to take action whenever necessary.