Vote Everywhere Alumni Launch Voting Rights Working Group
Last fall, The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Vote Everywhere Alumni Association met to discuss one topic: how can we better support students who are involved in the Vote Everywhere program?
Many of us were involved in Vote Everywhere since the program was launched nationally in 2014. As students, we were passionate about improving our system of democracy, involving our peers in the democratic process, and amplifying the voices of young adults. To do this, we tackled a variety of issues at our alma maters. We registered thousands of voters and turned them out to vote, we raised funding for large-scale events, we brought polling places closer to campus, and we even changed state laws.
We determined that our expertise would be best put to use by advising students who undertake similar efforts. In October 2017, we launched the Alumni Association Working Group to assist student policy efforts on campuses across the nation.
“Working with Vote Everywhere Ambassadors allows alumni to continue building and sharing skills that we learned during our undergraduate years. The program teaches all participants how to be civically engaged, every day,”
Simpson College Vote Everywhere Alumni
“I believe that it is important to give back. One way to do this is to work with and mentor current Vote Everywhere Ambassadors,” said Valencia Richardson, a 2016 program graduate and former Fulbright Scholar from Louisiana State University.
Valencia, who is Co-chair of the Alumni Association and a student at Georgetown University Law Center, credits her experiences as an Ambassador with sparking her desire to go to law school. “As an Ambassador, I learned about the intricacies of my state’s legislative process. I knew then that I wanted to pursue a career in public interest law,” she added.
“It’s important for Ambassadors to undertake challenging policy and advocacy campaigns,” said Angela De La Riva, 2016 program graduate from Simpson College. “Tasking the Ambassadors with solving a complex or controversial issue is an important experience for their careers. In the process, students learn to research effectively, to think strategically, and to build coalitions with diverse stakeholders. These are invaluable skills in the workplace,” she added.
The Alumni Association Working Group has brought together students from a variety of Vote Everywhere campus partners. In only two sessions, students from 12 colleges and universities came together to discuss tactics and strategies, and to exchange ideas.
“The Ambassadors receive comprehensive support from their Vote Everywhere Program Managers, as well as their Campus Champions,” said Angela. “Our goal is to be an additional layer of support. We’re focused on developing a space where students can come in with their concerns, and leave with a concrete action plan that advances their goals,” added Valencia.
Working Group sessions have tackled working with administrators, bringing a polling place to campus, combating logistical challenges to voter registration, and building coalitions with other student organizations.
Erick Jenkins, former Vote Everywhere Ambassador at East Carolina University, said that working in the small group made him look at the bigger picture. “Utilizing coalitions is now at the forefront of our team’s effort thanks to the small group. We are getting like-minded staff, faculty, and administrators involved in our plans and making real change on our campus.”
With the Vote Everywhere program, students have a chance to make a difference in their community. But they also create a legacy of social advocacy that will be carried on for generations to come at their universities. “We are excited to build the AGF legacy beyond our higher education institutions and contribute towards the success of current and future Vote Everywhere Ambassadors,” added MacKenzie.
About the Author
Jonian Rafti is a student at Fordham Law School and the Co-chair of the Vote Everywhere Alumni Association. He was Vote Everywhere’s inaugural Ambassador at Bard College.