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The University’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement is helping students to become civically engaged by informing them of issues of the upcoming election and asking students why they vote in a campaign in partnership with the Andrew Goodman Foundation.
The Andrew Goodman Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that seeks to educate students about their voting rights and to get them to be more civically involved, said Nathalie Du, senior rhetoric and communications major and ambassador for the Foundation.
“It serves to illustrate that the student population be more educated voters as they move through life,” Du said.
The Andrew Goodman Foundation was founded by the parents of Andrew Goodman, a civil rights worker who was killed by the Ku Klux Klan during the Freedom Summer campaign of 1964.
“He devoted his life to getting marginalized and minority people to go out and vote,” said Abrelle Negrete, senior education major and Foundation ambassador.
The Foundation reached out to the University of La Verne to become one of its partner schools in the fall of 2018. The University started actively participating in Spring of 2019, said Myrna Hugo, of the Office of Civic and Community Engagement. Hugo is serving as “campus champion” for the Foundation.
The partnership allowed the University to create student ambassadors on campus to help educate their peers on what is going on in the world of politics, Hugo said.
Negrete said that the Foundation focuses on students because their age group is underrepresented in the polls.
“I joined because a lot of people’s ideas and perspectives aren’t showing up because we aren’t voting,” Negrete said. “We could make change by encouraging people to vote.”
“Voting is a right that every American has, but not every American exercises,” Du added.
Between 2012 and today, only 50% of people ages 18 to 29 voted, according to the United States Census Bureau. While there was only a 1% increase in 2016 from 2012, voters ages 18 to 29 historically went out to vote during the 2018 midterm elections, with 36% of people going out to vote from 2014’s 20%, according to the Census Bureau.
The non-partisan Foundation is aimed at addressing voter suppression, vs. supporting specific candidates or issues.
Student ambassadors created the “I Vote Because” campaign in collaboration with the Associated Students of University La Verne. The campaign encourages students, faculty and staff to send a video or written response to the phrase “I vote because,” Hugo said.
“We hope it shines a light on what we have in common and the importance of voting,” she added.
The idea for the “I Vote Because” campaign came from another university that had a similar campaign, which was successful, Negrete said.
“When students realize that this is impactful for people’s lives, it kind of helps them humanize the reason for voting and helps them recognize the significance of their vote,” Negrete said.
Negrete said that she hopes including responses from the University’s administration, will also encourage students to vote.
The last day to participate in the I Vote Because campaign is Oct. 26, but submissions will still be accepted after the date, Negrete said.
Submissions should be posted within a week or so, Du said.
Collaboration with other organizations is important to the success of the campaign, Hugo said.
Other initiatives to get the University community enthusiastic about voting included a presidential debate watch party Thursday, hosted by the political science department.
When the partnership with the Andrew Goodman Foundation began, the ambassadors set up booths on campus to answer questions about voting.
Now that everything is online, these booths have moved online as well, Negrete said.
They had planned to make the University an authorized voting center, Negrete said. But the pandemic put those plans on hold for now, Negrete said.
Negrete said she got involved with this project to honor the legacy of those who fought for voting rights.
“People gave up their life to get us to where we are now and get us to begin to vote, and we aren’t honoring that legacy unless we vote,” Negrette said.
“Join us…share your voice,” Hugo said. “Whatever your reason is, it is an important voice and your voice does matter…Everyone comes to the table with different ideas and a different agenda. The work being done becomes even more sweet when we get the participation from our community.”
David Gonzalez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.