A concerted effort focused on raising awareness of the issues important to voting age millennials of color took place in Boyle Heights less than a week before the Nov. 8 election.

During three days this week, college students from throughout the Los Angeles area volunteered their time to help bring this under-represented group into the voting fold, with the goal of reshaping the future of California. They were gathered by YVote, a community-based coalition of 16 organizations engaged in reaching-out to young voters using text messaging, phone banking, canvassing and social media outreach.

The volunteers met Tuesday trough Thursday at InnerCity Struggle’s headquarters on Boyle Street.

“We are focused generally on 18-34 year olds but particularly on 18-24 year olds,” said Luis Sánchez, YVote director. “One out of every three folks in California are now millennials.”

The Boyle Heights native said millennials –those born between 1981 and 2000– may have felt disenfranchised in the past, because of the national political conversation. Only 24 percent of the millennials eligible to vote actually participated in the 2012 presidential election, but Sánchez argued this time around they are more vested into the issues affecting their generation than most people would think.

“I actually think that their generation is the most activist we’ve seen in a long time,” said Sánchez.

One of those millennials was YVote volunteer Jhoana Ascensión, who said she reached out to other millennials because she wanted them to know that this election is not only about choosing a new president, but also about the local issues that affect them.

The Roosevelt High School graduate attended the school during a time when California schools were poorly funded – a fate she’d like to spare her fellow millennials.

“I went to Roosevelt when there were a lot of cutbacks of teachers and resources. Some of the propositions on the ballot are going to deal with education,” said Ascensión.

This was one of the motivating factors that moved Ascensión to volunteer her services, but it wasn’t her only reason.

“I actually can’t vote. I’m undocumented. This is my way of making sure my community’s voice could be heard,” she said.

Sánchez said YVote began this campaign primarily because African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans have gained a tremendous voting power that could potentially change a system that is not working for them.

“They have the power to shape California because they represent over 4 million potential voters in California,” said Sánchez. “The numbers plus the energy can lead to something very positive.”

Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council President Mynor Godoy was part of the YVote Movement Strategy Center Team that coordinated the L.A. Youth Vote program locally.

“For me, a lot of the things that are being discussed in this particular election are very personal. From housing, which is a major issue in Boyle Heights to prison reform and how our criminal justice system operates,” said Godoy.

“For too long we’ve been investing more in prisons than we have in schools,” added Godoy.

He also said this is the first election were millennials can help start breaking that down by addressing under-resourced schools, a high dropout rate and prison overcrowding.

Ascensión may have summed it up best when she said this effort is a millennials helping millennials campaign, where she got great pleasure from reaching out to her peers.

“Some of the people I have talked to said it’s their first time going out to vote and are excited about their voices being heard,” said Ascensión.

One of the persons she spoke with was not planning to vote because he was disillusioned about the presidential election. After talking to him about some of the propositions and her own experiences, she was able to convince him to get out and vote.

“Being from the same generation, he knew where I was coming from. We’re all motivated to be here. We really want young people to go out and vote,” said Ascensión.

Godoy said the three-day event in Boyle Heights was just one part of YVotes plans. The organization will continue working after the November 8 election, leading through to the 2018 mid-term elections in California.

Photo above: YVote volunteers gather in front of InnerCity Struggle’s Boyle Street headquarters in Boyle Heights. All photos by Art Torres for Boyle Heights Beat.

Gus Ugalde

Gus Ugalde is a print journalist and Boyle Heights native. He is a graduate of both Salesian High School and East Los Angeles College. With writing as his passion, he has had over 500 stories published...

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