As part of TLU’s partnership with Campus Vote Project (CVP) and our Voter Friendly Campus Designation, students Raquel Morris and Adrian Villarreal have been selected to nationally represent TLU as 2020 Democracy Fellows. They will both work with TLU’s Center For Servant Leadership (CSL) Director Morgan Klaser on voter engagement, voter registration, election education, Census Outreach, and creating TLU’s new Voter Friendly Campus Action Plan.
Launched in 2014, CVP’s Democracy Fellowship program has graduated 186 student leaders who play a critical role in motivating their peers, faculty, and administrators to take part in nonpartisan democratic engagement activities on their campuses.
Apart from the university’s recent Voter Friendly Campus Designation, the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement reported in September 2019 that TLU’s student voting rate significantly increased during the 2018 election to 44 percent—up from just 10.6 percent in 2014. While college voting numbers did double across the country during the 2018 election, TLU surpassed the Average Institutional Voting Rate among campuses where the national average sits at 39 percent for 2018.
Political Science major Raquel Morris ’21 said she was immediately intrigued by the work CVP does, especially the Democracy Fellowship program.
“The fact I can help out in my community with something I’ve always been passionate about is amazing,” she said. “I appreciate that CVP isn’t party affiliated and that their main goals are to educate college students about the importance of voting and limiting the barriers they face to vote.”
Morris, who is also member of TLU’s Black and Gold President’s Council and the women's soccer team, said she grew up learning about the importance of voting and that her voice mattered.
“When I was in elementary and middle school, my dad would take me with him to go vote because he wanted to make sure I understood the importance of engaging in local and national politics and that I knew it was our right citizens,” she said. “He would always let me keep the ‘I Voted’ sticker. Now, I see how others aren't necessarily aware how community engagement through politics matters and I want to help change their perspective. I also hope to gain a network of like-minded people who realize the importance of helping others engage in politics. A community of people with the same goal can be powerful.”
In addition to serving as a 2020 Democracy Fellow, Political Science major Adrian Villarreal ’21 was also selected as a 2019 Newman Civic Fellow. Awarded by Campus Compact—a national coalition of nearly 1,000 colleges and universities committed to the public purposes of higher education—the Newman Civic Fellowship recognizes and supports students who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country. He is the fifth TLU student since 2014 to receive this prestigious honor and one of less than 300 students nationwide recognized in 2019.
Villarreal first became involved with TLU's Center For Servant Leadership in 2017, leading efforts like the West End Neighborhood Project and serving as the Habitat for Humanity Coordinator.
"As an aspiring politician, this fellowship is something I knew I could really enjoy doing," he said. "We are building the voice of a new generation. Getting young adults who may not be interested in politics at this point in life is important work. We need voices of all ages and perspectives to vote. In my opinion, that is what keeps America great. The possibilities are endless with this project and I am excited to see where this experience will take me."
CSL Director Morgan Klaser says it’s TLU’s responsibility as a university to help students become socially responsible citizens, especially those who are first-time voters.
“These students will also be able to help create an excited atmosphere around the upcoming presidential election,” Klaser said. “Raquel and Adrian’s work will allow us to continue the Voter Friendly Campus designation that we previously received and are applying for again. That designation means that we want to make students feel comfortable with registering to vote, informing themselves about candidates and issues they care about, and participating in the elections process. Civic engagement is central to TLU's mission and I see it as a privilege that I have a chance to get students excited about participating in democracy through service, leadership, and voter engagement."