As part of TLU’s partnership with Campus Vote Project (CVP), students Gabi Gonzales and Jenna Greene will nationally represent TLU as 2021 Democracy Fellows. This is the second consecutive year TLU students have been selected to be part of this prestigious group. In 2020, Student Government Association President Raquel Morris and Political Science major Adrian Villareal were chosen.
For 2021, both new Fellows will work with TLU’s Center For Servant Leadership (CSL) Director Morgan Klaser on voter engagement and registration, election education, Census Outreach, and implementing TLU’s new Voter Friendly Campus Action Plan.
Launched in 2014, CVP’s Democracy Fellowship program has graduated 186 student leaders who play a dedicated role to support increased access to the democratic process, specifically highlighting and tackling the barriers that young people and students face.
According to campusvoteproject.org, “Historically, young adults have voted at lower rates than older cohorts. They are also the newest members of our democracy, move more frequently, are less likely to have a driver’s license, and are less likely to be contacted directly by political campaigns then older age groups, all of which are barriers to registering and voting.”
CSL Director Morgan Klaser says pursuing a more just world through civic engagement and servant leadership is central to TLU’s mission, and the Democracy Fellow program is one example of its importance at TLU.
“The 2021 Democracy Fellows support TLU’s commitment to being a voter-friendly campus by providing nonpartisan resources for voter registration, education, and turnout for not only the TLU community, but the surrounding Seguin community as well,” Klaser said. “Additionally, the Democracy Fellows cultivate a student-driven culture of voter engagement on our campus through programs centering on dialogue, education, and outreach.”
For Jenna Greene, initiatives centered around voter education and registration and informing students about key issues on future ballots are efforts she is looking forward to.
“Voting is a fundamental process in the democratic system,” she said. “It is our chance as citizens to use our voice and to be heard by those in government. Though not required, I believe that it is our responsibility to participate in the democratic process. We have the power to make change through voting.”
Greene hopes to pursue a master's program and internship upon graduation from TLU. Her long-term professional goals include moving to Washington D.C. to one day work for the U.S. Department of State. She says her work on events as a Democracy Fellow and member of TLU’s Voter Coalition are laying the groundwork for such a role.
“TLU actively engages students and the community through online events, education initiatives and social media outreach,” she said. “The TLU Voter Coalition, which is comprised of faculty, staff, students, and community members, work together monthly via Zoom to create voter engagement plans on campus. Online forums hosted by the CSL provide the entire TLU community with a safe space for open, productive dialogue. These are just two examples of how TLU actively engages students and the local community. It’s so crucial for everyone to be involved in these programs so that we can continue, as a campus and as Democracy Fellows, to work together to uphold a strong, unified community.”
Gabi Gonzales is an Art major with plans to eventually teach college level. Unlike many of her Democracy Fellows peers, she’s not earning a degree in political science; however, she knows just how important it is for people from all areas to have input in the democratic process.
"Voting is important to me because I really do believe that every individual has the ability to make a difference,” she said. “If we all start learning about and getting involved with important issues, prioritizing our community’s needs, participating in local elections, our voices will be heard and represented properly. Then one day, future generations will live in a better system. It all starts with us. We are always trying to find more ways to team up with community organizations. It’s crucial that as young people we realize just how important local civic engagement is because our community is where we can truly get our voices heard and represented.”