“Green Dot votes” echoed through the halls of Inglewood’s Faithful Central Bible Church on Saturday November 5th. Voters filled the rooms of the church for the third annual United Parents and Students assembly. It was clear that this was no routine meeting, this was an assembly for change.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke of a future where students had safe and clean paths to school, where parents had jobs that paid a living wage, and higher education was more accessible to students. This future seemed nearly tangible when Garcetti boasted about a recent minimum wage increase, the new Clean Streets LA initiative, and most importantly, the newly announced college promise for LA’s graduating seniors.
“This year I took the challenge of President Obama, called America’s Promise, to make community colleges free to anybody who graduates from high school. We are the biggest city in America to do it and it applies to our charter schools. Any student from Green Dot who graduates next year, not [just] in the [distant] future, will get free community college,” promised Garcetti.
Garcetti inspired an uproar of applause, causing students, parents, and educators to stand in celebration. Many cheered and raised their school delegation signs in support.
According to the Center for American Progress during the 2014 midterm election, Hispanic, African American, and other ethnic minorities made up nearly 43% of non-voters. Latino voter turnout in 2012 was 48%, and African-American turnout was 66%, but we will have to wait until 2017 to learn about this cycle. Green Dot students, parents, and staff have been hard at work to ensure that the number of nonvoters decreases this year.
“We are here today to stand up for ourselves, our families, and our communities. We are here today to say no more to low voter turnout in our neighborhoods and amongst our younger people,” said Keisha Mitchell, parent leader.
Throughout the year our staff works with students and families as part of our Green Dot Votes Initiative. Since 2015, Green Dot’s United Parents and Students has registered more than 2000 new voters.
“I am overwhelmed with pride and inspired by what is possible when parents and families feel their voices are affirmed. " said Marco Petruzzi, President and CEO of Green Dot Public Schools National. Green Dot Votes has helped many of the communities we serve feel empowered to combat stereotypes and perceptions about voter participation.
Green Dot students, many newly registered voters , took to the stage to share what voting meant to them. “This year I registered to vote in my government class,” said Niko Mendoza, Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo Senior. “I’m going to vote for the first time on Tuesday because I want to make a difference in my community.”
Even those students who aren’t eligible to register yet understand how valuable the right to vote is. “I believe it’s my obligation not only as an American student, but as a woman, to go forth with what so many before me fought for, said Dulce Aceves, Ánimo Watts senior.
In this way and more, the third annual United Parents and Students Assembly proved to be a success. The assembly empowered students, parents, and members of the community to utilize their voice if they truly want to see change--but we cannot do it alone. Even with many partner community based organizations and generous supporters, mobilizing change takes resources that aren't always guaranteed. One thing, however, is certain: Green Dot votes!