Given the importance of mobilizing the youth vote in this country, I want to introduce you to Daranesha, a former student of mine. Even sharper and wittier than she was as a 7th grader, I have been admiring Nesha’s political activism on Facebook and Twitter these past few months. We had the opportunity to connect about today's election, and, not surprisingly, she is wise beyond her 19 years. In fact, she voted early, a step ahead of me!
CV: Nesha, you already cast your vote in Houston, Texas. Had your parents or anyone taken you to the polls before? What was the experience like?
DD: My parents have always voted. They were always stressing to me the importance of voting regardless of who I was voting for, because my vote could make a difference.
This election was my official first time voting. I must say that this experience was one that I will forever remember. Walking into the polls, I had the biggest smile on my face. I definitely felt the "freedom of speech" vibes kicking in. For the first time, I actually felt like I had a voice and it mattered, even though I didn't have to say a word. I didn't need to convince or explain to anyone who I was voting for and why. I could just simply walk in and speak through voting. Definitely a priceless moment marked in the books.
CV: What issues were most important to you?
DD: I felt anything benefiting me as a college student and as a woman was definitely important to me. I would love to have a great future for myself and not have to worry about not having rights as a woman or enough money to attend school.
CV: What sources did you use to inform your voting?
DD: I watched every debate, had debates with family and friends, and looked at reliable sites to see where each president stood. Also, Twitter was another helpful source; I followed both Romney and Obama's account.
CV: Have your friends voted? What’s your opinion of civic duty now that you’ve voted?
DD: Most of my friends have already voted, but some are actually waiting. I stress to them about voting and that voicing your opinion is a great practice. I explained to them the feeling I had once I walked out of the polls and how confident I was about my decision. Now that I can officially vote, I feel more American than ever before!
Thinking she’d eventually go to medical school, Cara graduated from the University of Virginia and moved to Houston to join Teach For America; a decade later, she’s still working in education. She currently manages an initiative to encourage collaboration between New York City public schools (both district and charter) and will never stop seeing the world through the eyes of a teacher and learner. You can find her on Twitter @cara_volpe