While the deadline has passed for voter registration in some states, you can still make a difference. Participants of UnidosUS’s campaign Power of 18, which promotes voter education among young adults, are doing just that by transitioning their work from voter registration to get-out-and-vote messages, sometimes using their personal experiences as a way to inform and inspire could-be voters.
Take, for example, Penn State University student Mariana Isabel Garcia Godoy, who came to the United States as a Colombian asylum seeker when she was just a kid. Now a legal resident but not a citizen, Garcia Godoy is asking others to recognize voting as a right and a privilege, one that could help all inhabitants in the United States to know and experience the value democracy.
“I just think that everybody if they’re eligible, should use that privilege,” she says. It’s the basis of our democracy so if you don’t vote, then you’re not really being an active citizen and not really participating in your community.”
Garcia Godoy comes with a wealth of ideas for helping Philadelphia residents become more engaged. She’s studying philosophy, communications, arts and sciences, African American history, and political science. When she’s done with all that, she hopes to attend law school and become a local politician, in order to “be one of those people who inspired me when I was younger,” she adds.
“The issues that are really important to me and my family, some of whom can vote, are issues like health care and education, especially being in government at Penn State, I know that things like small increases in budgets for education—higher education especially—means so much to people,” says Garcia Godoy. “An investment in education and higher education is an investment in minoritized communities.”
Garcia Godoy says it’s a challenge to go knocking on doors in communities wrought with poverty, drugs, and violence feel their voices don’t matter, but she hopes her brief chats will plant a seed of inspiration.
“Every day I come across people who feel hopeless and they’re not empowered to use their voices in a way that can take control of their future, and It means so much to give them that opportunity,” she says. “It’s not just casting a ballot. It’s making people feel like they’re part of something greater.”
And the best part for Garcia Godoy is that young people can be the democratic change they want to see in society.
“There’s a misconception in the younger community that caring about things like our government and things like health care and higher education is something that needs to be left up to people who have more experience than us, who may make more money than us, who may have more time than us,” she says. “It’s never too early to start making the right decisions for our communities and it’s never too early to start caring.”
-Author Julienne Gage is the Senior Web Content Manager for the UnidosUS Progress Report. The video was shot and produced by Elnatan Melaku Mulugeta.