Vanguards of action

Young advocates committed to spreading the power of voting. (2018 UnidosUS archive photo)
In 2018, we launched the Power of 18 campaign to make sure all eligible Latinos registered to vote, realized the power of taking a stand through voting, and showed up on Election Day. By the time the day was over, a record number of Latinos turned out for a midterm election, and we had the most diverse Congress in U.S. history.
Each year, more than 800,000 young Latinos turned 18 and became eligible to vote, and the Power of 18 campaign activated them to get involved. And organizations like UnidosUS Affiliate Guadalupe Centers are vital in making that a success each year by helping young Latinos learn more about how they can turn their voice and their vote into action.

Through a targeted canvassing program in states with large Latino populations, we met the community where they are, and helped them understand the importance of supporting the candidates who share their values and priorities. And through our High School Democracy Project, we engaged Latino youth with short, powerful lessons about civics in America, an education that is becoming rarer in schools, and helps them see their real rights and responsibilities as active participants in shaping the country 

Guadalupe Centers in Kansas City, Missouri, is one of the 63 Affiliates and partners who took part in the campaign and began registering eligible voters on top of the life-changing work they were already doing every day. 

Salvador Lopez, Guadalupe Centers’ Community Affairs Coordinator, was on a team of three people, registering eligible students in area high schools and local universities. By the end of the campaign, the team had registered 1,100 new voters at local colleges alone. 

For Salvador, voting is personal: “I voted because my mom and dad voted, but I didn’t understand the importance of it until I did this project.” Meeting with young people, many of them disillusioned by the political climate they were facing every day, he became committed to helping them see the power in voting. “I saw so many people who were uninformed [about voting], and the comments they were making was because they didn’t know,” Salvador says. 

Some schools, including Guadalupe Centers’ own high school, held sessions where students could talk about the problems they see in their neighborhood, and how voting could help solve those problems. The High School Democracy Project was a vital part of similar discussions in more than 50 schools across the country, explaining how our lawmakers affect our everyday lives, and how we can participate in making things better. 

Philadelphia “get out the vote” event with UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía.

UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía engaged with senior students at Guadalupe Centers, where they committed to voting in November, and those who weren’t eligible spoke passionately about the privilege of being able to vote to show support for those who can’t vote themselves. 

By Election Day, we helped more than 81,000 Latinos register to vote for the first time. For those who were unsure about needing to vote, Salvador made it simple: “It’s empowering. It’s your weapon.”

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