Logging on to virtual Career Day last Spring, Cordelia Kuiper Rauch ’22 and Gianna Galvan ’23 were unaware that they were about to meet their new mentor and discover a new passion. But the Career Day presentation they joined, “Nonprofit Election & Advocacy Communications: Empowering Voters and Defending Democracy,” led by Elizabeth Leslie ’89, Communications and Partnerships Manager for the League of Women Voters of California, immediately drew Cordelia and Gianna in.
“Elizabeth asked 30% of the students in our group to vote on the best music genre,” explains Cordelia. “Then, everyone is mandated to listen to that music. That example helped us understand what it’s like when only 30% of young people vote in elections. It means that a few are being the voice for many.” Gianna agrees. “The presentation got us excited about getting more people involved in voting,” she shares. “When you vote, it’s an opportunity to share your voice. At that point, I was committed.”
Cordelia and Gianna made a point to follow up with Elizabeth, explaining that they wanted to get involved. “I was able to offer them an internship with the League of Women Voters,” Elizabeth reports. “And I’ve watched these two work hard. Since last June, they’ve attended statewide meetings, hosted a virtual documentary to show and discuss how unjust misdemeanors are used to keep people from voting, and learned how to use data to understand how to move people to vote.” The chance to make new connections and contribute to meaningful conversations inspired the girls. “It was cool to see how building relationships with people about what matters to them can make the difference in whether they vote,” says Gianna.
As the summer wrapped up, Elizabeth challenged Cordelia and Gianna to keep using their skills. “I watched how they took chances to engage their peers and lead voter registration,” she reflects. “And I asked them how they could take what they learned back to O’Dowd.”
When school resumed in August, Cordelia and Gianna were ready to put their internship experiences into practice. First stop: a visit to Lou Richie ’89, O’Dowd’s Varsity Coach of Men’s Basketball, PE Teacher, and an advocate for voter registration. “I was floored by the demeanor and drive of these two young women,” shares Lou. “They came to me with a clear plan: start a Voter Registration Club at O’Dowd. They were passionate about engaging students in elections and ensuring all voices are heard.”
Lou immediately agreed to be the club’s moderator, moving the students to their next task: engage students in the conversation. He connected Cordelia and Gianna to When We All Vote, an organization with an exemplary program called My School Votes. “Before we knew it, Club Fair was right around the corner,” Gianna adds. The girls were thrilled when over 150 students signed up to be a part of the Voter Registration Club. In the coming months, they plan on a robust series of guest speakers to share voter registration data and to motivate their peers to use their votes to make positive changes.
“We are giving all O’Dowd Dragons the opportunity to register or pre-register to vote,” says Cordelia. “We want every voice heard in upcoming elections!” One way they plan to make voter registration easy is by creating signs with QR codes to take students directly to the voter registration website. “There shouldn’t be any hoops or burdens for students to do something as important as this,” declares Cordelia.
Thinking back on where chance and curiosity have taken these two students, they can’t help but reflect on how far they have come. “It’s really inspiring to learn from another Dragon,” reflects Gianna. “Elizabeth calls us her Dragon sisters. She helped us find our passion and guided us to be leaders on campus.”
“I agree,” comments Cordelia. “Both Elizabeth and Mr. Richie have given us so many opportunities. I can’t wait for us to have the chance to pass our passion and knowledge to the next generation of Dragons.”
Interested in sharing your passion with O’Dowd students? Contact Meghan Bailey-Wallingford ’89 to learn more about career engagement opportunities.