It’s never too early to get students interested in becoming civically engaged, and at North Dallas High School, that engagement comes in the form of a voter registration drive at school, sponsored by the Student Voter Empowerment Club.
The Student Voter Empowerment Club is a nonpartisan, student-led organization under the March to the Polls umbrella, whose projects include promoting civic education, increasing student voter turnout, and instilling a commitment to voting and civic engagement beyond the high school years.
Rubi Chavez, office manager and the sponsor of the student-led League of United Latin American Students (LULAC) chapter at North Dallas began the SVEC chapter last year to help youth at her school understand their civic responsibility to vote. This school year, Chavez invited Jo Rohde, an English demonstration teacher and debate sponsor to join forces to co-sponsor SVEC.
Rohde and Chavez say that it seemed like a natural fit to bring together their students, who collectively have a passion for civic engagement and who were already doing similar work.
There are approximately 25 Dallas ISD schools that have a SVEC chapter like the one at North Dallas High School. Students in grades nine through 12 can participate. For more information about SVEC and March to the Polls, click here.
“Students are hearing about the importance of voting directly from student voices, and it encourages other students to go out and vote,” Chavez said.
Even though Chavez and Rohde organize the monthly meetings with SVEC and have a mentor from March to the Polls who helps and guides the students, they ensure that it’s the students who will be leading the voter registration drive at the school.
Right now, the SVEC chapter is in what Rohde describes as phase one—students are starting to get the word out to their peers. The team has been split up into two committees. The social committee will share general information on social media about the upcoming May election as well as links to voter registration. The poster committee is working on getting posters up around the school and making announcements. After spring break, the students will move into phase two, which will include picking the date for the voter registration drive and finalizing the details.
According to Chavez, the March to the Polls organization has helped them every step of the way, including sharing resources with the students so they can be better informed about voting and the registration process. This includes resources in Spanish, as an effort to be inclusive of the Spanish-speaking population. Voter registration cards are in English and Spanish, Chavez said.
“I want them to get all the information regardless of their age, and for them to know that they have a voice and they can express that,” Chavez said.
While not all students might be eligible to vote this year, Chavez said students can use platforms they are passionate about to get the word out. Chavez believes that the more this generation is exposed to voter education, the more likely they will talk about it among their peers and family members, and become lifelong voters.
As a debate coach for the last 12 years, Rohde has seen her students research local and national elections and said she has really seen the impact when students inform themselves about their elected officials and where they stand on different topics.
“Something we’ve learned in debate is how important the local elections are and how they drive us,” she said. “For me, wanting to be part of this SVEC club and helping students get the knowledge they need to become those informed voters who can really make a change is what motivates me.”
Primaries early voting
Early voting for the March primaries is going on now through March 1. For more information about early voting and the March 5 primaries, visit www.votetexas.gov.