This summer, Political Science major Jenna Greene ’22 is serving as the national student programming Intern where she is assisting Campus Vote Project’s Curriculum and Research Coordinator, Kassie Phebillo. Helping the organization oversee all student programming, Greene has had the chance to assist with creating discussion block topics, content for orientation, summer programming for interns and Fellows, end of semester reports, and even building the slide deck for a national conference.
Greene says activism and political science are in her blood, given the fact her mother also majored in the subject. In addition to serving as TLU’s Democracy Fellow, she is also the Center for Servant Leadership’s voter registration & active citizenship coordinator, TLU’s Young Democrats president, a Water to Thrive chapter member, and a Guadalupe County volunteer voter deputy registrar.
At age 10, she actually volunteered on her first campaign, drawing posters for a rally.
“From then on there was no stopping me,” she said. “I struggled for a long time wondering where I wanted to land in politics, and I think majoring in political science helps me keep my options broad. Doing work in different fields now, like working with Campus Vote Project, gives me a better understanding of what kind of activism I want to pursue in my career. I think I’m learning a lot in college and learning a lot from Campus Vote Project so I will be prepared to dedicate my future to this field of work in any capacity.”
She was also a recent guest on the Student Voting Network’s podcast episode, “The 26th Turns 50 (And Still Needs ID To Vote)!” about the amendment which gave 18-year-old people the right to vote. In July of 1971, 50 years ago this month, the amendment was officially added to the United States Constitution.
“The 26th Amendment expanded constitutional voting rights for Americans who were participating in every aspect of government—war, taxes, and labor,” she said. “Yet, these Americans were still denied the right to vote. I had the opportunity to learn about the amendment a lot over the last few weeks, and what I learned is simple: 50 years later in 2021, young people are just as essential to government today. Young people should take the time to learn more about the 26th Amendment to understand just how difficult the fight for the right to vote was. It was a long-fought battle, and we have a responsibility to understand our privilege today.”
Greene says learning more about the fight for voting rights and the difficult path for those who led the charge five decades ago was another reminder for her about how important it is that young people understand their votes do actually make an impact.
“When people tell me their vote doesn’t matter or that they feel like it won’t make a difference, it makes me really sad,” she said. “I think we need to find a way—especially through education—to help people through this barrier. No matter who you want to vote for or what your political affiliations are, it’s important to remember that you have the right to vote and the privilege to use your voice. In local elections, where some races are determined by just a handful of votes, your voice does matter. I tell people to try to look at the bigger picture—not to look at it as one vote, look at it as a group effort. All of our votes together make a difference for young people in our community and across the country.”
Through her summer internship, Greene says she’s also seeing more of the behind the scenes work and just what it takes to create content for an entire semester of training Fellows across the country, including the extensive planning and dedication it takes. She was initially only supposed to be part of the planning for the podcast episode and was then given the opportunity to actually be featured reading some constituent letters from the Carl Albert Center at the University of Oklahoma—a unique and nonpartisan institution that strengthens representative democracy through scholarship, learning, and service.
“Knowing that we were creating a podcast that was going to be used to further educate people on the importance of the 26th Amendment and celebrate the 50th anniversary of its ratification was super special to me,” she said. “Using our platform as students is the most important thing we can do. I think from a student’s perspective, hearing from other students is sometimes more digestible and more personal. Being able to make that connection was a great experience. As we continue our work on the podcast, we can continue to educate those in our space and continue the fight for voting rights, and I believe that is exactly what we did with this episode.”