Oakland, CA–October 06, 2016
Exercising her passion for community action, a Mills College public policy student is joining forces with famed California labor leader Dolores Huerta in a Central Valley voter registration drive this month.
Maira Perez Velazquez, a 20-year-old senior at Mills, plans to bring a group of five other students to knock on doors in California’s 21st Congressional District October 14 and 15. Working not on behalf of Mills, but as individuals, the group hopes to rally support for Huerta’s son, Democrat civil rights attorney Emilio Huerta, who is campaigning for the district’s seat.
The younger Huerta is seeking to wrest control from Republican David Valadao who currently holds the seat in the vast farming district that extends from an area near the town of Firebaugh in the north to an area just south of Bakersfield.
Perez Velazquez said registering voters is one way to further the Mills tradition of public service and get others involved, even if they need a little nudge. The voter registration drive and campaign work also is bucking the perception that her generation is politically apathetic.
“We all need to find time to be actively engaged in the political process,” said Perez Velazquez. “If we are not actively engaged in the political process and not actively participating, we’re not taking responsibility for the future. Through this process we are more than anything gaining the love and passion to be life long active citizens in this country.”
Perez Velazquez said she connected with the 86-year-old Huerta, who co-founded the United Farm Workers Association in 1962 with Cesar Chavez, while doing voter outreach in the Central Valley over the summer. The work was part of an outreach program of the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center in Oakland. During a one-month period, a group from the center knocked on 7,000 doors to explain the voter registration process and urge people to vote in November, she said.
Perez Velazquez, who won a national student journalism contest this year for a public radio story on a Central American refugee fleeing gang violence, hopes to go on to law school after she graduates in December. And she hopes to inspire other Mills students to get out in the world and do some good.
“One of the things I noticed is that as college students we have this tendency to believe we’re too busy to be actively engaged in community work, so I really wanted to help convince my peers and other students at Mills to get engaged in the political process,” Perez Velazquez said.