We are so thrilled to share our partnership with IGNITE National, the phenomenal organization encouraging and guiding young women to get involved and be politically active. You’ve heard from their Founder Anne Moses, and two Fellows Monica Sibri and Tiffany Boyd. We caught up with Sayra Trejo, Junior at Dominican University and member of IGNITE Chapter at Dominican University and asked her to share her story about why being politically involved is of vital importance.
“A few months ago, a couple weeks before the 2016 election, I found myself standing outside of my school’s cafeteria waving down passing students during the lunchtime rush. I cradled a stack of brochures in my arms as I struggled to keep them dry in the slight drizzle that dampened my scarf and blouse.
This is a scene that I would’ve never pictured in my head just a few years ago. I was standing in the rain with other members of my school’s Political Science Association passing out California election ballot guides that we had created to help our fellow students as they prepared for the upcoming presidential, state, and local elections.
Growing up, I never considered myself politically savvy. In fact, my first taste of politics and government came my senior year when I took a Government class. And I’ll be honest, I really didn’t like that class. The concepts were dry, and boring and most of our learning came out of a textbook. The problem was that politics seemed distant, something that happened in a capitol building in Sacramento, in the weathered pages of my textbook, or thousands of miles away in Washington D.C.
Now, the idea of politics being far away on a hill definitely has changed.
The moment that changed my relationship with politics was when I took an Intro to American Politics and Government class my Sophomore year in college. In one semester we explored the intricacies of our government and political system, we analyzed the three branches of government, and we broke down the complexity of the system as a whole.
One day in the middle of the semester, I sat at my desk and highlighted parts of my notes as I prepared for a midterm exam. Suddenly I remembered my government class from high school, and realized one of the factors that contributed to my lack of engagement with politics. I simply didn’t know enough about the subject. Whether we like it or not, to be involved, we need to be familiar with the system. That is the first step to political engagement.
People need to see themselves in order to feel like they are part of the system.
One facet of political engagement that we still need to work on is political representation of women, especially African-American and Latina women. People need to see themselves in order to feel like they are part of the system. Another reason why politics felt distant was that I didn’t know anyone who was politically involved, or held public office. I barely knew who my representatives were. I’m proud to say that that is no longer the case.
I urge you to seek out and support candidates that align with your views and represent people like you. One recently elected official that I admire is Catherine Cortez Masto [D-NV], our country’s first Latina Senator, I support her because she is paving the way for women across the country, especially Latina women.
The biggest recommendation I can give someone who feels the way I used to feel in regards to politics is to seek out people who can guide you and provide the insight to help navigate the world of politics. Entering the world of politics may mean running for office for some, while it might mean something else for others. To some it may mean volunteering for a local campaign, or applying for a board or commission. These are all valuable and important positions in our country.
Of course, stepping into this world may be daunting, so be sure to have a solid foundation and understanding of the political system. Know that it may not always be pretty, but it is so rewarding. Politics and government are all around us, and affect our lives every single day, so why not join in and help steer policy in the direction you choose.”
For more inspiration from IGNITE participants and how to be involved, check out our other stories!