Youth Voices Encourage Adult Turn Out
Rafael Mejia is HLA’s Public Speaking professor. He has taught both Acting and Public Speaking with our program for over 5 years . He is also the newest member of Hostos’s Service Learning and Civic Engagement Committee representing the Humanities Department. In the committee’s first meeting of this semester, they discussed how to motivate people to go and vote. Professor Mejia had the idea of including high school students in this initiative, since he teaches with Early College. The idea was that young students ask their adult friends and family to represent them by voting in these elections since they cannot vote yet. Mejia immediately thought about his former HLA students who were very committed in his Public Speaking class: Socisha, Hasan, Stephanie, and Anthony. He had a Zoom meeting with them and they all came up with ideas for the videos.
After the original clips were received from students, Mejia reached out to me, Rocio Rayo, the Program Coordinator for HLA and asked for help with editing the videos. Since I also run HLA’s Social Media pages and I built and maintain the partnership’s website – we were able to work together to organize our digital campaign inline with the city, state, and nation’s #earlyvoting campaigns. Also, in coordination with our local college as well as our parent university – Hostos and CUNY respectively. We expected to get some views and interaction, but we have gotten tremendous support from everyone. Our IG profile impressions went up 400% with over 1000 views on the 4 videos collectively in 6 days. Our students are so incredibly proud to see themselves and their classmates being civically engaged and working to get out the vote. The video have also been shared by CBOs, City and State offices, CUNY, and Hostos’ Communication’s Department as well as other programs and initiatives at Hostos.
This reinforced Mejia’s original idea that the HS students have a unique voice and that people want to hear it. Our students are incredibly talented and we need to show their abilities to the world. When people like the college counselor at the high school, Ms. Esmelda Toribio comments that those students are shy and quiet and she can’t believe how strong their voice is – we are validated in our belief that the students of HLA are stars – they are leaders and will continue to lead us into the future.
In the South Bronx where most of our students live and where Hostos Lincoln Academy and Hostos Community College are located the voter turnout last presidential election was less than 10% – the Bronx overall had the lowest voter turn out of all 5 boroughs. This campaign is invaluable to urging parents, sisters, aunts, friends to vote if they can. In an election like this one – every single vote counts.
There can be no price placed on the simple act of believing and listening to our youth – they have something to say – all we have to do is pass them the mic and listen.