PAC students inspired for civic engagement
As election cycles come and go, Palo Alto College encourages its students to not only vote but get involved; with San Antonio municipal elections approaching in May, the College has encouraged students to get civically engaged in new ways.
As part of Women’s History Month, the College hosted American labor and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta on campus. During her visit, Huerta reflected on her experiences as a pioneer in the Latino civil rights movement and the relevance of those issues in today’s society.
“We look back at the beginning of the civil rights movement and where we’re at today, and we can see we’ve made a lot of progress, but on the other hand we know that we still have a long way to go,” Huerta told an audience of students and community members. “This is a time of opportunity, this is a time of challenge, and this is a time that all of us together can make sure that when we come out of it, we’re going to be able to be a stronger United States of America.”
One audience member expressed that there were many issues she wanted to advocate for, so she asked Huerta how to choose the best place to start. Huerta encouraged everyone to become educated about local elections, find a candidate whose values they support, and volunteer for their campaign.
“The way that we can really make change is to make sure that we elect people who are willing to fight for us—who really care for our communities and are going to pass the laws that we need,” said Huerta. “Go out there and do the phone banking, knock on doors, and get somebody elected. Encourage people to vote. Make them understand that the only way a democracy can work is if people participate.”
Carlos Cruz, director of Student Life, said one of his goals in working with students is to familiarize them with the political process and encourage involvement in local politics.
“It’s even more important to get involved with your local politics and local elected officials because they are the ones who are making the decisions for your community. Nobody knows your community better than yourself,” said Cruz. “Ultimately, those are the people who are going to make decisions for where you live and what type of resources you have readily available.”
This spring, Cruz took a group of Palo Alto College students to Austin for the bi-yearly Community College Day at the Texas State Capitol. Students were able to meet and discuss their concerns with State Rep. Philip Cortez, a south side native and Palo Alto College alum. Cruz said Cortez was receptive to the feedback from the students, and the students left feeling empowered to get involved.
“It was enlightening for the students to see how everything that happens in our legislature has some impact not just on our communities. It’s very important for our representatives to hear the voices of their constituents,” said Cruz. “Your voice does matter. Even though they’re still students, their concerns and needs still need to be met. And how can they be met if they’re not getting civically engaged or participating?”
The San Antonio municipal elections for mayor and all 10 of its city council seats will take place on Saturday, May 6, and voter registration closes Thursday, April 6. Early voting will be open from April 24 to May 2 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. For more information about the upcoming election can be viewed here