New Politics Forum Texas Civic Ambassadors

A year of service, education, and leadership supporting civic life in Texas.

Texas Civic Ambassador Reflections

Student Reflections

Anjitha Nair_Headshot.jpg

Anjitha Nair , The University of Texas at Austin
2020 - 2021 TCA

My advice to other young people who want to be more involved in their communities is to find an issue they are curious about and get involved with a group that is working on that issue. Even if you don’t have a lot of experience at the moment, join the organization anyways and be ready to learn from day one. Say yes to opportunities that excite you, not just the ones that align with your career goals; the most fruitful experiences for me in college were ones where I knew I was working to serve my community. They weren’t related to computer science (my major), and that’s okay. By being in Texas Civic Ambassadors, TX Votes, and Student Government, I’ve grown as an individual because I got opportunities to work with diverse groups and advocate for my campus and my community; these experiences were some of the most fulfilling learning opportunities that I would have never gotten inside the classroom.

Learn more here: http://bit.ly/TCAAnjitha

Arturo Canchola_Headshot.jpg

Arturo Canchola, St. Mary's University
2020 - 2021 TCA

I entered the program lacking confidence in my abilities to operate in the political space. Unlike some of my peers, I never worked in the field as a campaign worker, organizer, staffer, or otherwise. The TCA program equipped me with the understanding I needed to utilize my unique background and politically engage with my community. I gained a lot of confidence in my abilities to affect change by working with the Annette Strauss Institute. Their efforts allowed me to recognize that I could leverage my pre-medicine background to present a distinct approach to civic engagement. As a future doctor, I plan to remain focused on elevating issues of the Latino community and advocating for expanded access to healthcare. Read more here: http://bit.ly/TCAArturo

Fox Walker TCA

Fox Walker, The University of Texas at Austin
2020 - 2021 TCA

The Texas Civic Ambassador program helped me to understand how to use my leadership skills to undertake timely projects that benefit my community. I would strongly recommend this program to any student who seeks to improve his or her project management skills, who is also interested in public service. One reason the TCA program is so worthwhile is that its members are passionate about helping students specify their career aspirations, and then they go above and beyond by providing resources to turn those aspirations into reality. Moreover, the program’s members came from such unique backgrounds and held a wide range of political views that I was continuously encouraged to think deeply about the needs of my community and my civic duty. Read more here: http://bit.ly/TCAFox

Jeffrey Clemmons

Jeffrey Clemmons , The University of Texas at Austin
2020 - 2021 TCA

Good can mean and be a lot of things. It can mean making calls, writing letters, and knocking doors in your community; but it can also be about simply helping your friend get a job or supporting an unhoused person by getting them a meal. Inevitably, building a robust civic culture in our state and country is about participating in our democracy, taking part in building the world we want to see. Taking ownership over our communities liberates us from the idea that we are subject to an order rather than the rule makers ourselves. This awesome responsibility is one that we shouldn’t take lightly, shirking it off because we believe that it’s something for someone else to do or that what we do won’t have an impact. You are so powerful! Your power only increases in the community, which is why although it may feel like the best way forward is to start from scratch, we can go much further and do more when we work together towards a solution. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/TCAJeff

Katey McCall

Katey McCall, Lamar University
2020 - 2021 TCA

I learned so much more during my time as a Texas Civic Ambassador than I can ever eloquently put into words. I learned how to be a better citizen of our state, work in groups with civically oriented goals, act as a bipartisan motivator and educator for civic engagement, and much more. My way of thinking about and approaching civic engagement was expanded, and I became better informed throughout my time as a TCA. I learned to start with and build upon our similarities and shared passions. My job as a TCA was to be a bipartisan advocate for civic engagement in a world that is incredibly politically divided. Though it has been a challenging job, I am proud to say that I learned to not only support my community members in becoming more engaged but helped them spark a love for that engagement. Read more here: http://bit.ly/TCAKatey

Larry Rodriguez Shea

Larry Rodriguez Shea, St. Mary's University
2020 - 2021 TCA

The most challenging thing this year was first the time ever really in my life failing to deliver on my first attempt. Never in my life had I faced so many hurdles and challenges in trying to put on some sort of event or organizing myself. This proved challenging to me because it seemed like this event was impossible to put on. How much of it is due to COVID is left to tell. As I extend my ambassadorship into the fall where it appears that things will turn out normally, I hope that this was the case and I can prove myself wrong. Moving forward I will approach things differently and use methods to better organize myself, especially my project management skills which have never been tested quite as much as they have now. Read more here: http://bit.ly/TCALarry

Sarah batson

Sarah Batson, The University of Texas at Austin
2020 - 2021 TCA

My ambassadorship and civic engagement project holding relationship based voter education and GOTV text banks gave me an appreciation of the immense power of communities and the hard work of organizing that is needed to harness this power. I am so grateful for the community organization that has already been formed within the UT Austin and broader Austin community through years of work. The challenge of bringing people together during not only a time of physical social distancing for safety during COVID-19 but mental health challenges from isolation and the strain of time online was considerable, but maximizing the time spent together online allowed for tremendous impactful action to educate and motivate voters in spite of this. Read more here: http://bit.ly/TCASarah

Sophia Andritsos

Sophia Andritsos, The University of Texas at Austin
2020 - 2021 TCA

My year as a Texas Civic Ambassador has easily been my most transformative professional and personal opportunity as an undergraduate. I was challenged to step out of my comfort zone to embrace my true potential as a leader, and developed my ability to handle new challenges and adapt to different situations in the process. Being a TCA allowed me to improve my civic involvement, professionalism, interpersonal communication, problem solving, organization, and leadership capabilities. The biggest challenge I faced was embracing a new leadership role that consisted of a great amount of responsibility. But as opposed to a challenge, I saw this as an opportunity for personal growth while working to serve the community that I deeply care about. Through the TCA program I learned that putting the needs of my community ahead of my own is the mark of true leadership.

Alan Timoteo TCA

Timoteo A. Modrow, University of Houston Downtown
2020 - 2021 TCA

The pandemic and the civil unrest we experienced as a community have really challenged me to view civic engagement and the work we do in a more critical lens. Equity needs to be at the forefront of everything that we do. Access is the beginning of equity and so we must make sure that the programs and initiatives we seek to implement are as available as possible for the most amount of people. Every day I was reminded that I do not know everything and that its okay to not know everything. The important thing is to be curious and be willing to learn and to be corrected by others that are directly impacted by the issues we seek to address. Read more here: http://bit.ly/TCAAlan

Alexis

Alexis Tatum, The University of Texas at Austin
2019 - 2020 TCA

"I came into the programming feeling unconfident in civic and political engagement because I studied journalism, where objectivity and non-bias is vital. Through Texas Civic Ambassadors, I learned that civic engagement doesn’t have to be choosing a political party to represent or one singular cause to take up. Civic engagement means investing in your community and its needs; it means educating yourself and others so that we all can advocate for ourselves and others with understanding and consideration." Read more here: https://bit.ly/2BXQLx4

Alexzandra

Alexzandra Roman, The University of Texas at Austin
2019 - 2020 TCA

"This semester has been abnormal, to say the least. The way I received my education drastically transformed, I moved home and I haven’t been out of my house in a “normal” capacity in months. Things are different. But some things still haven't changed. The poor allocation of resources to underprivileged communities, even in a pandemic, hasn't changed. Fighting privilege when it puts the lives of human beings on the line, hasn’t changed. Organizing and advocating for my community, hasn’t changed. While there can be a lot of bad found in the normals that remain as COVID sweeps over our nation, I have found myself taking solace in the good that can be found amidst some of these normals. " Read more here: https://bit.ly/2zpjwBV

angie

Angie Whistler, University of North Texas
2019 - 2020 TCA

For me, TCA was my opportunity to gain a foundation and wealth of knowledge in order to serve my community, not an advancement of my other previous experiences. Truly, I had never done anything like this and never thought I would actually be accepted into the program. However, because of this year, I can now fool even myself into believing that I am a public servant, and I know I have found where I am meant to be.

In just a year, I passed 9 pieces of legislation at my University, got one of those pieces to my City Council, advocated on a state-wide level for voter registration change, began two new organizations for civic life, brought the Campus Votes Project to UNT and began the Voter Friendly Campus Initiative, registered close to 2,000 people, and presented civic engagement research at 2 national conferences. More than any else though, this year I was finally able to define my identity, my future, and my role in creating the next chapter for our generation, and that was because of this program. I may not have been a civic leader, activist, or public servant before TCA, but I will forever be one, now, because of it. Learn more here. http://bit.ly/TCAAngie

Arrian

Arrian Ebrahimi, St. Edward's University
2019 - 2020 TCA

"Organizing events through university bureaucracy is challenging. Organizing an event with high profile speakers is harder. Organizing anything during a global pandemic forced me to make tough calls. At the start of my Texas Civic Ambassador year in 2019, I set out to organize a spring forum to discuss the changes being considered to Texas’ system of selecting judges. I had a dream panel in mind with state lawmakers, judges, and law professors, and the Annette Strauss Institute had armed me with the connections and funding I needed to make this happen. Naturally, however, I faced a learning curve." Read more here: https://bit.ly/3cUbK0g

daphne

Daphne Flores, Rice University
2019 - 2020 TCA

"The COVID-19 pandemic has been a critical event this year, as well. It obstructed normal pathways to the community, which, in my case, I was just beginning to grasp. After dedicating a significant portion of my college career to Civic Duty Rice and receiving endless support and guidance from my colleagues, I felt ready to take on my role as president of the organization for the 2020-2021 academic year. Doubt settled in when I realized we were going to have to deal with many uncertainties, look beyond conventional methods of engagement, and learn to navigate new platforms. What has given me hope is the continuous involvement and dedication that I am seeing at local, national, and global levels. The TCA Program has given me the tools and connections to continue facilitating conversations and join a much larger platform of civic advocates. " Read more here: https://bit.ly/2XRuGsj

carolyn

Carolyn Daly, Rice University
2019 - 2020 TCA

"Although everything I’m doing is not what I’d originally planned, TCA has shown me how to be positive in the face of challenges and make sure I’m still making a positive impact on my community. I think that’s the advice I would give to other young people wanting to get more involved in their communities lead their own civic initiatives right now: be optimistic, flexible, and adaptable, and figure out ways you can still make a positive impact on your community, even if it looks very different from what you’d originally imagined. I’m not too sure about the likelihood of it happening, but I hope that this pandemic will provide an opportunity for our country to make some big changes and make our institutions work for everyone." Read more here: https://bit.ly/3cRcd3C

Kerry

Kerry Mackenzie, The University of Texas at Austin
2019 - 2020 TCA

"As a Texas Civic Ambassador, I wanted to focus on promoting civic discourse in my community to promote respectful and impactful student advocacy. During my first year on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, I witnessed instances where political tension between students escalated past the point of effectiveness, sometimes negatively impacting students’ well being. Almost always, the strained conditions and lack of communication underlying these instances went unidentified and undiscussed. It has become my mission as a TCA to identify and communicate these concealed escalators, bringing them to our student community’s awareness. When we understand and feel interconnected to each other, we are more effective." Read more here: https://bit.ly/3dUhEzP

Dianna Starr Headshot

Dianna Starr, Southwestern University
2019 - 2020 TCA

"Since the Multifaith Prayer Room’s unveiling in November, the Student Admissions Department and its employees have been retrained to include and highlight the space as an accommodation for non-Methodist touring students and parents. In addition, an imam has been brought onto campus to lead Jummah and there were motions to invite a lama onto campus as well. While the internship at the Texas Civic Ambassador Program has reached a relative conclusion, motions to push for more religious accommodations will continue into 2020, 2021, and onward through the creation of a council to address any materials missing. Likewise, the Muslim and Allies Organization is working in collaboration with the Religious and Spiritual Life Office to address Southwestern University’s lack of dietary accommodations (ie: kosher and halal). The Multifaith Worship Room has been finalized, but it is a stepping stone that will continue in the years to come." Read more here: https://bit.ly/2B4lXtR

Jackson Freeman

Jackson Freeman, The University of Texas at Austin
2019 - 2020 TCA

"This project was an excellent experience in learning about civic engagement. Going into the project, I had lofty goals about changing the recycling landscape of West Campus. I quickly realized that was a goal well beyond my means and that my project would be restricted by city codes and red tape. However, this was a good thing long-term. I shifted my project to focus on one actor, American Campus, and the process by which I got in contact with the actor introduced me to multiple sustainability-minded public figures. I had conversations with multiple city officials and landlords, and I believe that connection of actors is a goal I want outlined in all my future projects." Read more here: https://bit.ly/30wbUbI

nick davis

Nicholas Davis, Texas Wesleyan University
2019 - 2020 TCA

"My civic journey led me to this amazing opportunity, and very
much so have informed my opinions moving forward. I believe more than anything, the people and the hope that is enshrined in the world that Texas Civic Ambassadors’ are crafting is incredibly impactful and hopeful for the future of our state, nation, and world. I was fortunate enough to be able to carry out my civic engagement project before the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, I had a broader idea of what my civic engagement project was going to be, however with the assistance of both Bianca and others from the Annette Strauss Institute I was able to narrow my scope to a more manageable and personal project. My project was focused around my high school alma mater, Blum Independent School district and students that were seniors and juniors. I had to pitch the civic engagement curriculum to the Blum School Board and get it approved as a way to engage with the administration and have the opportunity to explain the program." Read more here: https://bit.ly/2YugbtT

Nick eastwood

Nick Eastwood, The University of Texas at Austin
2019 - 2020 TCA

Tasnim Islam

Tasnim Islam, The University of Texas at Austin
2019 - 2020 TCA

"To other young people wanting to get more involved in their communities, I would recommend focusing on systematic issues when leading their own civic initiatives. Think big but also realistically. Think about building mutual aid, dismantling oppressive structures, protesting, and prepping for the revolution. Instead of begging for a spot in a predominately white space, we should be creating our own spaces, taking care of one another, and collectively fighting against those in power. My diversity and inclusion project was a good lesson for me and those who attended, but I must move my focus beyond the “diversity and inclusion” trope. I unknowingly used to only create changes within the system, but I realize my time and energy is better spent on revolutionary politics, which can attain the larger changes our society need." Read more here: https://bit.ly/30KcKC7

Tegan Debrock

Tegan Debrock, Texas State University
2019 - 2020 TCA

"The civic ambassador experience helped me re-contextualize my idea of promoting civic engagement. I grew up in the same city that I am attending college in, so previous to this program most of my life, work, and activism had taken place in the same area. Participating in the civic ambassador program expanded my perspective by introducing me to new people, issues, and contexts across Texas. It showed me a diverse range of communities that other young people were involved in. My TCA project was an event that brought together people who were already engaged in their passions and fields of interest in my community. It challenged them to find ways to collaborate, identify gaps in their area, and bring in others to their decision-making process." Read more here: https://bit.ly/3fi4AEG

Zack Magallanez

Zack Magallanez, The University of Texas at San Antonio
2019 - 2020 TCA

"First, joining a group of young, dedicated, leaders from across Texas to share ideas on how to make civics fun and engaging for all is what made this opportunity appealing in the beginning. Texas, demographically speaking, is a young, majority-minority state. This group reflects what our state actually looks like and helped put into perspective how we think we can help create change. Hearing everyone’s story and why they chose to dedicate a year of their life to serving as an ambassador was inspiring and memorable. This group, no matter the difficulties along the way, remained focused on creating a project that would leave a lasting legacy. To that I say - congratulations!" Read more here: https://bit.ly/2XU5AJG