New Organization Encourages Civic Engagement
With her senior year drawing close, Vanessa Meraz had a moment of reflection where she started thinking about what her time at OU had looked like so far and what she wanted to accomplish in her final year to benefit her community.
That contribution came in the form of starting the OU chapter of Voto Latino, which according to its website is a “pioneering civic media organization that seeks to transform America by recognizing Latinos’ innate leadership. Through innovative digital campaigns, pop culture, and grassroots voices, we provide culturally relevant programs that engage, educate, and empower Latinos to be agents of change. Together, we aim to build a stronger and more inclusive democracy.”
Once Meraz, a political science and constitutional studies major, decided she wanted to focus on the issue of civic engagement, she began doing research for existing resources instead of reinventing the wheel. That’s when she came across Voto Latino.
“Voto Latino is unique and it stood out to me because of its prioritization of local efforts,” Meraz explained. “Any good national organization understands that nobody knows the people of a certain community like the people of that community … I reached out to people I knew would also care about the issue and would want to be involved with an organization like this, and then we built the vision together.”
While interning in Washington, D.C., over the summer, Meraz even had the chance to connect with the national organization, collaborating on what a branch would look like on campus. So far, voter registration has been a primary focus for the group, which set up a booth on National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 12 to help people register and will do so again during the week leading up to Oklahoma’s Oct. 12 registration deadline.
Meraz, who was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and calls Moore, Okla., home, said it is never too early or too late to be civically engaged in the community. She encouraged not only students on campus but people from around the state as a whole to contact Voto Latino if they are interested in volunteering on campaigns or learning more about civic engagement. Connect with OU’s chapter of Voto Latino via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.