HOLA Ohio is working hard to register new voters and build up the political leaders of the future

In 2017, a woman named Dora Acosta ran for political office in Lake County, Ohio. Just a few years earlier this would have only been a dream for her. And now that dream had been made possible by HOLA Ohio, a small grassroots organization that has partnered with UnidosUS for many years.

HOLA Ohio has been registering voters for years. | HOLA Ohio voter registration
HOLA Ohio has been registering voters for years.

HOLA supports immigrants throughout the citizenship process, providing free one-on-one tutoring for individuals preparing for their naturalization interview. Importantly, the organization also helps people register to vote once they become U.S. citizens. The organization supported Acosta, a long-time HOLA member, all the way through the citizenship process. Acosta didn’t just use her new citizenship to register to vote—she went even further by making a run for a city council seat.

HOLA is one of the community-based organizations that has received a grant through UnidosUS’s Latino Empowerment and Advocacy Project (LEAP), which has allowed them to scale up the amount of civic engagement work they can accomplish, including setting a goal of registering at least 1,200 new voters by October 9. They have already registered more than 700 voters in time for this year’s midterm elections.

Kelsey Fischer is a program manager at the organization and oversees its voter registration work. HOLA has been doing registration work for many years—indeed, before the 2016 election, they were able to register 200 new eligible voters in just a few weeks.

HOLA Ohio supporters register using a UnidosUS (formerly NCLR) mobile app. | HOLA Ohio voter registration
HOLA Ohio supporters register using a UnidosUS (formerly NCLR) mobile phone app. You can register today by visiting becomeavoter.org.

Fischer notes that HOLA is also focused on voter education, having partnered with the local board of elections for many years to put on voter education events in Spanish and English. HOLA is also the state lead for Ohio for UnidosUS’s yearly Leaders in Action Summit. For the past decade, HOLA has brought groups of young people to Washington, DC to learn how the government works, meet with their representatives, and develop their leadership skills—all components of the summit.

“Supporting and empowering the next generation of community leaders is one of our top priorities,” Fischer says.


Susana Chavez is one of those leaders. Chavez, now a sophomore in college, has been active with HOLA since she was just eight years old, when her parents started bringing her to HOLA’s community meetings.

Recently, she came with HOLA to the UnidosUS Leaders in Action Summit and also completed the “Taking it to the Ballot Box: Winning Strategies for the 2018 Election Cycle” certificate program presented by UnidosUS and the George Washington School of Political Management.

Susana Chavez registers young voters at a Bad Bunny concert in Cleveland on Sept. 20, 2017. | HOLA Ohio voter registration
Susana Chavez registers young voters at a Bad Bunny concert in Cleveland on Sept. 20, 2017. (Photo: HOLA Ohio)

Chavez now utilizes the training as one of HOLA’s top voter registration volunteers. She has registered voters at community events, rock concerts, social service agencies, and performances of the HOLA Folkloric Dance Group, in which Chavez dances.

“Registering voters and educating our community about the right to vote is important,” Chavez says. “It gives us a way to create change and be better represented in our government.”

HOLA also has a deep relationship with Facing History New Tech, a local high school in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Students have been very supportive of and engaged with HOLA in the past, and even led fundraisers on the organization’s behalf.

“Our school is always looking to make connections with the community and is always open to collaborate with outside organizations to create authentic learning opportunities for our students and to also challenge them in some way,” says Doug Ramage, a government teacher at Facing History New Tech.

Ramage was approached by HOLA to create an opportunity for eligible students to learn about the voter registration process and to get registered to vote themselves.

As a result, HOLA shared the UnidosUS High School Democracy Project curriculum with Ramage so that he’d be able to use it with his class and has partnered with Facing History New Tech to register voters at school events and plan the school’s first-ever National Voter Registration Day event.


On September 25, National Voter Registration Day, there will be a small ceremony for the students who are eligible to vote. All students involved in the ceremony have been asked to bring one member of their family to school that day to see them get registered. The goal is to turn this ceremony into an annual event.

Ramage notes that a representative from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections will be present to collect the forms. City Council President and Ward 13 representative Kevin Kelley has agreed to attend as well and address the students as they complete this important milestone.

Power of 18 | Voting | Register to vote | HOLA Ohio voter registration

Students in Ramage’s American Government class have been given the task of  registering at least two people in the community who are eligible to vote.

“So far, we have registered 47 people using Open House and Laptop Orientation Nights as opportunities to register parents and family members,” Ramage says.

Fischer also strongly emphasizes that HOLA sees it as important and necessary for all eligible members of the community to be able to use their voice at the polls and view themselves as having a key role in making that access possible.

“We are more than a social services agency,” Fischer says. “Our goal is empowerment and building political power in the community.”

By Stephanie Presch, Content Specialist, UnidosUS

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