By Janet Hernandez, Senior Civic Engagement Project Manager
Anthony Joel Chavez II woke up early on Election Day to go to the polls with his grandmother, Virginia. Anthony is a 19-year-old student at our Affiliate, East Austin College Prep, and a participant in our inaugural NCLR High School Democracy Project.
“I can’t wait to vote,” he said as we spoke to him about his first time voting. “I can’t wait to make my voice heard.”
Anthony learned about the importance of voting through the High School Democracy Project. The curriculum seeks to increase Latino youth participation in the electoral process. It is currently being implemented in 16 states across the country with 53 partners, which include community-based organization and schools.
“My teachers explained to us the importance of voting. Before then, no one had talked to me about how important it is to make my voice heard,” said Anthony.
As part of the curriculum, East Austin College Prep carried out a panel discussion with representatives from the Republican, Green, Democrat, and Libertarian parties in which they presented their political platforms to more than 100 youth. During the panel, Anthony asked the panelists for their position on free college education, and he felt like the Democrats and Republicans didn’t adequately answer his question. He preferred the responses from the Libertarian and Green party representatives.
“I learned that when it comes to voting, you can’t trust what you hear, you have to do your research and learn more about what the candidates are saying, so you can make a decision when you go to the polls,” said Anthony. “You have to think for yourself. If people disagree, it doesn’t matter, you have to make your own choice; that’s how our democracy works.”
Anthony said that he is looking for a president who is going to welcome immigrants and give them a chance to stay. “Immigrants know America is already great; that’s why they come here, for a better life. If America welcomes immigrants, that makes us an even better country than we are,” he said.
The first-time voter has experienced immigration through his family and friends. His grandfather is an immigrant, as are many of his classmates at school. He reflected on the many conversations he’s had this election season with his grandparents over the important issues of the day.
“My grandmother and I watch the news together in English and discuss what the politicians are proposing. When my grandfather joins the conversation we switch to Spanish, but the issues are the same,” he said. “If we welcome immigrants, we would be twice as better and twice as strong.”