Texas Civic Ambassador Reflections

Texas Civic Ambassador 2019 - 2020

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

Student Reflections 2020

Alexis

Alexis Tatum, The University of Texas at Austin
"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

"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

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. https://bit.ly/2AOxzS8

Arrian

Arrian Ebrahimi, St. Edward's University
"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

carlo

Carlo Flores, The University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley

carolyn

Carolyn Daly, Rice University
"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

daphne

Daphne Flores, Rice University
"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

David Amaya Headshot

David Amaya, Texas Wesleyan University

Dianna Starr Headshot

Dianna Starr, Southwestern University
"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

Gisela Argote

Gisela Argote, The University of Texas at El Paso

Greg

Greg Norwood, Houston Community College

Jackson Freeman

Jackson Freeman, The University of Texas at Austin
"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

Kerry

Kerry Mackenzie, The University of Texas at Austin
"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

Marce Fuentes

Marce Fuentes, The University of Texas at El Paso

nick davis

Nicholas Davis, Texas Wesleyan University
"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

Tasnim Islam

Tasnim Islam, The University of Texas at Austin
"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
"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

Teresa Cropper

Teresa Cropper, Southwestern University
"This year through my role with the SU Project for Civil Discourse, I organized several events (not just my project), all of which related to civic engagement in some way. This spring semester, we the project put on three events: 1) Taco Talks (my TCA project) 2) a “Preparing for the Primaries” event, which focused on educating students on what each office on the primary ballot was and 3) the “Civil Discourse Festival”. Each event came with its own unique challenges (most challenging of which was a protest in opposition to the Civil Discourse Festival, but that would take a whole other reflection, so I won’t get into that here). All of these events occurred in February and early March, which I am really grateful for. I am very glad I got to organize these events before COVID-19 struck." Read more here: https://bit.ly/2MRLIjL

Zack Magallanez

Zack Magallanez
"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