Alesondra Cruz is a current senior at St. Edward’s University studying Political Science with concentrations in international relations and pre-law studies. She first became interested in politics in the 5th grade when her class held their very own McCain versus Obama debate. In the years since, she has served in Congressman Pete Olson’s youth council, interned at the Texas Capitol, and worked in political fundraising. She helped found the St. Edward’s chapter of Generation Citizen which works to ensure that every student in Austin receives effective action civics education, providing them with the skills and knowledge necessary to be active citizens. She is eager to serve as a Texas Civic Ambassador to promote political education and to encourage civility amongst diversity of thought. When not obsessing over the latest news cycle, you can probably find her listening to podcasts, going to mass, or watching documentaries about The Beach Boys.
Alyssa Guajardo is a junior studying Exercise Science with a concentration in Physical Therapy, and a minor in Statistics and Spanish at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Alyssa serves as a Senator for The College of Health Affairs and Chair for Campus Life and Community Affairs Committee for her University's Student Government Association. She works on campus as a student mentor and helps motivate, guide, and support first year students. She has a lifelong
passion of helping others and enjoys being surrounded with people who share the same goals as her. She began her interest in politics after being inspired by one of her college professors. She is always looking for ways to grow. She believed the Texas Civic Ambassador program was the right first step to grow her capabilities as a leader and be an agent of change wherever she goes. She's excited to make a lot of changes and is determined to make this year a great one!
Alyssa Hiarker was born and raised in Houston, Texas and is a second-year student studying Government and Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. She currently serves on the Leadership Team of the Liberal Arts Council as the College Ambassadors committee co-chair. She also serves as a First Year Interest Group (FIG) Mentor to help incoming freshmen get acclimated to life on campus. Previously, she has been a part of the Longhorn Advocacy Mentorship Program, where she worked with UT alumni and state senators on higher education reform; has served as Publicity Chair of Texas THON’s ENACT program, the largest student run philanthropy organization in the state of Texas; served as a member of the College Ambassador committee within LAC; and served as an intern for the lobbyist organization the League of Women Voters of Texas. She is excited to expand her previous civic and political work by serving as an Ambassador and hopes to work to combat apathy and encourage political participation across campus.
Andrew Fuller is a Junior Tarleton State University majoring in Agricultural Economics. He is currently serving as the Vice President of Judicial Affairs for Tarleton’s Interfraternity Council and on his second term as president of his fraternity, Alpha Gamma Rho. In his free time, he enjoys working with rescue dogs, traveling to new places, cooking, going to concerts, and hanging out with friends. Andrew hopes to attend law school at the University of Texas after earning his undergraduate degree. In the political world, Andrew is particularly passionate about economic development, educational policy, civil rights, and agricultural policy; but he is excited to learn about, and find ways to solve, the problems that his fellow Texans are facing and he knows that the Texas Civic Ambassador program will be an amazing resource for him to achieve that goal.
Angelica Ramirez is a native Houstonian and senior at The University of Houston studying Political Science. Outside of school, she spends her time working for her city’s Parks and Recreation Department and for IGNITE National. IGNITE is a non-profit organization that focuses on engaging young women to become the next generation of civic leaders. Upon graduation, she hopes to attend law school and further her education. Beyond academia and work, she enjoys researching education policy, science fiction movies, and breakfast food. Angelica is honored to have been selected as a Texas Civic Ambassador and is most excited to gain skills necessary to advance, motivate, and better represent the city of Houston.
Anilya Krishnan is a junior at the University of Texas at Austin, majoring Government and History with a certificate in Public Policy. Upon graduation, she hopes to attend law school and pursue a career in human and civil rights law. During her time as an undergraduate, Anilya has interned with Austin City Council Member Ora Houston, State Representative Celia Israel, and U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett. As a Texas Civic Ambassador, Anilya hopes to make civic life in Texas more accessible to underrepresented groups within our local communities.
Ashley Hicksis a mother of a hilarious three-year-old and a wife of nearly five years. As the oldest of five children, she started considering what responsibilities she owed to herself, and others, at an early age. This eagerness to be a moral individual and a contributing member in society drove her to consider the study of collective peoples. From there, she quickly recognized the barriers and opportunities afforded by the governing laws and institutions. Hence, she chose to pursue a degree that would enrich her understanding of how these factors work with the people beholden to them. Her educational background includes undergraduate studies at Texas Wesleyan University, concentrating on Pre-Law, Political Science, and Sociology. She is in in her final year of this degree, set to graduate May 19, 2019 with her Bachelors of Science. Jurisprudence is the next stop, commencing in August of 2020. As she moves forward from law school into her prospective career, she feels confident that her experiences as a Texas Civic Ambassador will have enhanced her foundational understanding of empowering others to act on behalf of themselves and their society. She is excited and humbled by her acceptance to this program, which formally declares her as an advocate of nonpartisan civic engagement. In a speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, he asserted, "A time comes when silence is betrayal." He addressed the one of mankind’s greatest responsibilities: Our duty to perceive, analyze, and respond to the needs of our society. Her great passion is empowering others to act. This ideal has pressed her to aspire servant-leadership, which is a key component in her upcoming role as a Texas Civic Ambassador.
Ayanna Watkins is a rising sophomore at Paul Quinn College pursuing a Bachelor of Arts of Arts degree in Legal Studies. Upon graduation, she plans to attend graduate school and to pursue a double Master’s in Public and Education Policy, with the eventual goal of becoming a Texas Legislator. Ayanna serves as a Presidential Scholar, Student Ambassador, Student Activity Council Member, and is now a JP Morgan Chase intern for the 2018-19 academic year. With these positions, she plans on creating a bigger impact for those around her on or off her institution’s campus. Ayanna was also selected as the chapter President for Texas Rising on her campus. Through the chapter, she works tirelessly to get students on her college campus registered and pledged to vote for the general election. Overall, Ayanna anticipates participating as a Texas Civic Ambassador to encourage the civic participation in the Dallas area for the 2018-19 academic year.
Bryan Mena is a first-generation American from El Paso, Texas and he is currently studying economics at El Paso Community College. After community college, he hopes to transfer to either the University of Texas at Austin or Texas A&M University to complete his undergraduate studies. In May 2018, Bryan was elected Student Body President and will be representing over 28,000 students. He also served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Tejano Tribune student newspaper. Outside of school, he has interned for two Texas legislators, worked on two campaigns, and worked as a Field Fellow for Voto Latino. He firmly believes that civic participation, whether it is campaigning or simply voting, is crucial for a society to move forward. As a Texas Civic Ambassador, Bryan is excited to implement an initiative that will engage his community. In his free time, he enjoys reading about leadership, going to the gym, and watching horror movies. He also loves to travel!
Chidozie Nwaneri is a senior at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science. Chidozie grew up in Minnesota but now lives in Houston, Texas. He is a member of Trinity University's Black Student Union and is the acting Service Chair of the Chi Delta Tau fraternity. With a relentless drive for creating opportunities and improving his community, Chidozie is proud to serve as a Texas Civic Ambassador and put his knowledge, efforts, and passion to work.
Courtney Broderick is entering her third year in the History Ph.D. program at The University of Texas at Austin. Originally from Arlington, Texas, Courtney first delved into civic engagement in her senior year of high school where she was involved in an internship, called the Richard Greene Scholars Program, that rotated around local government entities. Since then, Courtney has served as a Summer Fellow for the Dallas County Democratic Party. She has interned, then subsequently worked for, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) through the Texas Legislative Internship Program (TLIP). Courtney also worked in the Texas Senate as a Legislative Aide in education and finance policy for State Senator Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) through the Senator Gregory Luna Scholars and Fellows Program. This summer, Courtney served as a Fellow with the Kirk Watson Campaign Academy, where she learned a great deal about progressive political campaigning. Courtney is excited to participate in TCA to further her knowledge about civic engagement and hopes to help Texas, and her hometown, become more politically active.
Danyale Kellogg is a senior history major at Southwestern University. During her time in college, she has interned with the US House of Representatives, the Texas Legislature, a defense and security consulting firm, and was a member of the Secretary of Homeland Security’s Honors Program, through which she interned with SAC El Paso Intelligence. On campus, she has been Secretary and President of Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, a Representative in Student Government, a Hatton W. Sumners Scholar, and a member of the Honor Code Council, among other things. She spent the fall of 2017 in Seoul, South Korea studying international security and relations in addition to public international law and Korean. She spent the summer of 2018 with The Fund for American Studies’ Institute on Economics and International Affairs in Washington D.C. while also completing research with Southwestern regarding German foreign policy expressions through multilateral international organizations and missions post-9/11, such as NATO/ISAF and the EU/ESDP. Though her interests are primarily related to national security and defense, she is a proud lifelong Texan that is eager to work to improve avenues for student education and engagement on campus. Her goal after graduation is to pursue a Master of Science in Intelligence and National Security Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso.
David Bomar is a junior at Concordia University Texas, and is a double major in Political Science and History. He is the vice president of a Student Advocacy organization on campus, called CTX ALIVE, where he helps host events that focus on issues that affect college students. He has also competed at MOAS Moot Court his freshman and sophomore year. He plans on going to Law School once he finishes his undergrad. Environmentalism is a subject that David feels passionate about, and is excited to be part of the TCA Program to further the conversation of environmentalism. He also competed on campus in a persuasive speech competition where he advocated that students become more involved around campus to build the skills they need to be more civically engaged later in their lives. David believes that TCA is the perfect opportunity to further political discussions and to get more students to be more civically engaged.
Elena Ivanova is a junior studying Government, Public Health, and Plan II Honors at The University of Texas at Austin. Elena first became interested in politics by closely following the 2016 national election and volunteering with the Bernie Sanders campaign while in high school. During her freshman and sophomore years at UT, Elena interned as a Legislative Aide in the Office of Eddie Lucio III at the Texas State Capitol. While Elena loves learning about politics and government at all levels, she is particularly passionate about foreign diplomacy and the role of government in providing aid during environmental crises. Elena spends most of her free time following basketball, reading, hiking around Austin, training for a half-marathon, listening to podcasts, and volunteering.
Elijah Miller is a Senior at Texas State University studying Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. Working on local, state, and federal campaigns upon entering college was the beginning of his civic involvement, and he hasn't looked back since. Elijah currently serves on the executive board for the Black Student Alliance on campus. He looks forward to joining the TCA 2018-2019 cohort, and not only learning how to be a more effective leader, but also helping young people across the state understand the importance of community involvement.
Grant E. Loveless is a current sophomore at Austin Community College pursuing a marketing certification and finishing his prerequisites; planning to transfer to the University of Texas in San Antonio, double majoring in Political Science and Psychology. Since his junior year at Manor High School, Grant has always been a tenacious and ambitious leader who has committed himself to serving others and being of use to the community and their needs. During his years in high school, Grant created, served, and assisted nine extracurricular clubs, such as the LGBTQIA+ organization, UNITY, and the HBCU Committee, that focused on social and educational change. As an Austinite, he is currently committed to representing African-American, Afro-Queer, human / civil rights, and the importance of education in Austin, Texas and at his community college. Grant is the Assistant of Student Services / Student Ambassador at Austin Community College, providing students the resources and opportunities needed to be successful personally, professionally, and academically. He loves and enjoys writing, dancing, volunteering, swimming, and, of course, hanging out with his close friends having fun. As a writer, poet, and social activist in his community he serves to promote equality, equity, and awareness and solutions on the issues of self-love / identity, racism, discrimination, colorism, inequality, and the disparities that minorities face in educational facilities that lead to failure. At Austin Community College, Grant serves as the Director of Communications for the student-lead organization, Austin Community Corps of Engineers, while being an active member of the Male Leadership Program, Black Student Success Committee, and Black Student Association. Grant is overjoyed and excited to serve as a Texas Civic Ambassador as he now has a platform to outreach, guide, and help to his community.
Jada Fraser Jada is a third year student at the University of Texas studying International Relations and Global Studies with a focus on International Security and is in the Bridging Disciplines Program for Human Rights and Social Justice. Her academic interests lie at the crossroads of the effects of globalization on international order, human rights, and civic participation. You are most likely to find Jada at a coffee shop, farmer’s market, new restaurant, or book store. She is a self-proclaimed, self-acclaimed food critic and spending copious amounts of money on food and drink is her greatest vice. Jada grew up all over Texas— from San Antonio, to Weatherford, to Conroe and a couple stops in between. It is because of this background, living in a diverse array of communities throughout the state, that her interest in the civic health of Texas was spiked. Jada is excited to be a Texas Civic Ambassador because of the unique opportunity it presents to gain the skills and experience to help improve civic participation in both her generation and in historically marginalized communities. She hopes to work towards bridging the divide between apathy and engagement by framing electoral politics in a way that connects with and amplifies the dreams, determination, and drive of all Texans.
Jakob Andrew Lucas is a rising sophomore and Government major at the University of Texas at Austin. He is from the Galveston area and became involved with politics the moment he realized that government is the institution most effective at helping people. Jakob proudly represents the College of Liberal Arts in Student Government. He's excited to serve as a Texas Civic Ambassador to fight incivility, apathy, and disengagement.
Johnathan Cereceres will be an Undergraduate Senior attending the University of Texas at El Paso focusing on a double major in Political Science and Chicano Studies. He is a native of El Paso striving to work on improving upward mobility within the borderland region. He has a strong compassion for helping the El Paso Del Norte region and all of his future plans include public service aiming to help El Paso. He serves as the Chief of Staff for the Texas State Board of Education District 1 Office under Georgina Perez, who is also his mentor. He has experience in the Student Government Association as an executive officer and different committees across UTEP. He also serves as the President of Pi Sigma Alpha which is the Political Science Honor Society on campus. Thankfully, he was also appointed to serve as the Student Representative for the Financial Aid Advisory Committee apart of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. His hobbies include photography and riding motorcycles. He is excited to serve as a Texas Civic Ambassador because he believes this program will strengthen and improve his skillset raising involvement within his community addressing collective needs. He looks forward to collaborating with other high caliber student leaders aiming to address civic engagement here in Texas in which they can holistically raise participation across the state.
Katya Ehresman is an Austin native and sophomore sociology and government major at the University of Texas at Austin who is dedicated to improve the civic health and equity in her city, state and nation. Between classes and on the weekends, Katya coaches debate at local high schools to state and national success while diligently working to cultivate research and personal advocacy skills with her students. Additionally, Katya spent her summer recruited to work at colleges from California to D.C. to teach students and address gender inequity in the national debate community as diversity coordinator of a national debate organization. When she isn't coaching debate, Katya also has a job as a student intern at the University Interscholastic League as an intern under the Forensics Director and additionally volunteers multiple nights a week at a local non-profit dedicated to helping single mother families escape the cycle of poverty and their children's learning curve before entering kindergarten. Katya is thrilled and honored to be a Texas Civic Ambassador because it will help provide her a platform to foster more community engagement and civic awareness in her community.
Kiyanoush Forough is an incoming sophomore at The University of Texas at Dallas. He's currently studying Economics and Finance with a minor in Political Science. He was born in Austin, Texas and has lived here his entire life. Years from now, he wants to find himself graduating from law school and beginning a career in law and government. He is passionate about the institutions that govern our society which is why he is so excited to serve as a Texas Civic Ambassador. He believes that the chance to create an impact and become involved in civic life is the opportunity of a lifetime, especially so early in his career.
Krista Gehlhausen is currently a junior at Concordia University Texas majoring in Political Science with minors in Legal Studies and Behavioral Sciences. In the past, she has worked for State Representative Drew Springer as a Legislative Aide during the 85th legislative and special sessions, as well as interning in the Research Department at Texas Public Policy Foundation. She is also a College Student Commissioner for the City of Austin. At Concordia, Krista is President of a peer education student organization (CTX Alive) as well as Vice President for the Student Government and Leadership Association. She works as a peer tutor, service-learning leader, and behavioral science assistant on campus. Upon graduation, Krista aspires to work in policy analysis or attain a Juris Doctorate in legislative/Constitutional law. In her free time, she enjoys reading pretty much anything. Civic engagement is her greatest passion in life, and she hopes to implement more projects onto her campus with the help of the TCA program.
Lawson Sadler is a junior at Baylor University studying Political Science and Spanish through the University Scholars program. Combining her passions for international politics and diplomacy, Lawson is President of the regional Eugene Scassa Model Organization of American States (MOAS). She has also worked in education as President of the Baylor High School Project in Waco, Texas and a Shepherd Scholars intern at the Sacred Heart Center in Richmond, Virginia. As a Texas Civic Ambassador, Lawson is eager to encounter new ways of using education policy to encourage activism and civic engagement among high school and college students.
Lily Trieu is currently an MBA student at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin with a concentration in Public and Governmental Affairs. She is focused on the intersection of public, private, and non-profit sectors with an interest in education and education policy. This past summer, Lily represented the University of Texas system in Washington, D.C. as a Graduate Public Policy Fellow with The Archer Center. Originally from Houston, TX, Lily completed her Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing and Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies from The University of Texas at Austin. Following her undergraduate studies, Lily spent more than nine years working in the private sector in roles like operations, data analytics, and account management in the consumer packaged goods industry. She is an active volunteer with children focused non-profits like Big Brothers Big Sisters and Junior Achievement and is a student board member of the Texas Tribune. In her free time, she enjoys community organizing and efforts to increase civic engagement, travel, and cooking.
Luke Alexander is a junior majoring in Political Science at Concordia University. Last summer, Luke had the privilege to intern under the honorable Judge Donna King at the Williamson County Justice Center. This internship introduced Luke to the legal process and caused him to develop an interest in issues that plague low-income communities such as food insecurity and homelessness. Luke is an aspiring documentary filmmaker and hopes to create films that both educate and inspire civic engagement. In his free time, Luke enjoys watching Scorsese films, reading about the Roman Empire, and attempting to make kombucha. Luke is honored to be a part of the Texas Civic Ambassadors Program and looks forward to using the program to kickstart a lifetime career of civil service.
Meredith McCain is a junior at Rice University majoring in political science and French. She first became interested in civic engagement and the political process in seventh grade when her mom ran for and was elected to her local school board. From there, her interest has grown into a passion for increasing youth civic engagement in order to strengthen grassroots democracy. After starting a national nonprofit called Civic Duty with a few friends focused on this same goal, she started a chapter of the organization at Rice. Over the past year, the club has already had notable successes in increasing student voter registration, voter turnout, and connecting students to Houston politics. Now, Civic Duty Rice is working to bring together universities throughout Houston this fall for a Youth Voters' Summit that will inform and energize students to get-out-the-vote. As a Texas Civic Ambassador, Meredith looks forward to connecting with students from across Texas and gaining leadership and communication skills to more effectively engage peers on her campus and in Houston. In the future, she hopes to work both internationally and stateside to understand and facilitate citizen engagement and grassroots advocacy as fundamental elements of strong democracies.
P. Antoinette White grew up both in Mexico and in the US, and is currently working towards her MS in International Political Economy at the University of Texas at Dallas. She is interested in breaking down cultural barriers and working towards bettering the welfare of society, whilst creating a more inclusive world both socially and economically. To accomplish such objectives, Antoinette hopes to grow as an advocate for social engagement through the Texas Civic Ambassadors Program by strengthening her leadership skills and learning how to better reach others.
Rosaleen Mao Xiong is a sophomore Computer Science major at UT Austin. She is from State College, PA, and moved to Texas to serve as an AmeriCorps member with City Year San Antonio for the 2016-2017 school year. On campus, she is a part of Student Government, the Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective, and Texas Code Orange. During her year as a TCA, she wants to increase access for people who are historically underrepresented in civic life.
Ryan Hurt is currently a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin. He is majoring in Government and Plan II Honors, with a certificate in Human Rights and Social Justice and a minor in Philosophy. He has worked on a couple local and state campaigns, but has personally found a preference in the judiciary. He currently works for the Tarrant County courts as a Criminal Courts Administrator, where he prepares and organizes criminal information for all the locally elected judges. He always does his best to ensure that all criminal defendants are given an equal hearing, no matter race, religion, or sexual orientation. He firmly believes in the intersection of politics and optimism and he enjoys helping people figure out how they can get involved in government. He CANNOT wait to see what the future of politics looks like because he is confident that his generation will be leading the torch with many needed changes. He is excited to serve as a Texas Civic Ambassador because the 2018-2019 school year could be one of the most important of the century. With the midterms in the fall, and the legislative session in the spring, they have the power to write the next couple of chapters of Texas history. How exciting!
Shoumik Dabir is a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in Plan II Honors and Business, and pursuing certificates in public policy and computing. He is interested in civic engagement amongst minority communities in America, foreign policy, and bridging political divides. Having previously worked on two US Congressional campaigns from Texas, he relishes the opportunity to organize, engage, and knock on doors. He is also a board member of The Texas Orator, UT Austin’s first student-led political review and is extensively involved in Student Government, serving as the Federal Relations Agency Co-Director for 2018-2019. Shoumik is thrilled to be a Texas Civic Ambassador and looks forward to helping create a more civically-minded society and in the process, develop as a leader. He hopes to attend law school and ultimately pursue a career in public service.
Sierra Clark is a junior studying Political Science and Public Administration at Texas State University. She has previously worked on local campaigns and is currently planning to develop a mobile system that will yield greater efficiency amongst city maintenance projects and subsequently increase civic engagement. She is passionate about international education and currently serves as an online ESL teacher to students in Beijing. Sierra hopes to work with others to decrease the gender disparity amongst government officials and encourage more young women to get involved in politics. Her research interests center around inner city school districts and political behavior in the black electorate. She is most excited to serve as a Texas Civic Ambassador and spark change in voter engagement in the South. In her free time, she enjoys hiking the greenbelt, reading, playing her ukelele, and being a cat mom.
Sierra Salser is currently a Junior at Austin College majoring in Political Science with a minor in Nonprofit Organization. She is a Hatton Sumners Scholar and Vice President of Share: Taking it to the Streets, a local outreach 501c(3), catering to those experiencing homelessness in Grayson County. Sierra is passionate about politics and policy that impact minority equity and education. While balancing her time between work, service and school, she enjoys sports and the arts. As a Texas Civic Ambassador, Sierra hopes to acquire the skills to encourage and educate her peers on the importance of political engagement, as she believes that millennial involvement in politics is imperative to the future of our nation.
Sonia Torres, a native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, immigrated to the United States at the age of 10 in search of the American Dream. Despite the social and cultural challenges, Sonia has not given up on her dream of attending university and of dedicating her life to champion economic opportunity for marginalized communities via data analysis and civic mobilization. To this end, she is a proud graduate of Barbers Hill High School, and currently a senior at Rice University pursing a degree in Mathematical Economic Analysis and a Certificate with the Center for Civic Leadership. She has had the privilege of working with local non-profits such as Mi Familia Vota and Baker Ripley to promote local youth civic participation, conducting grant sustainability research at a Research Triangle Institute project in Kampala, Uganda, working with the US State Department on a youth-targeted data mobilization project, and studied the economics of Latin American Migration at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington D.C. Her on-campus extracurricular involvements have included being co-captain of the Rice Speech and Debate team; an Ambassador for the Center for Civic Leadership; the Outreach Head for the Rice Student Volunteer Program; and former president of Rice Mariachi Luna Llena. Most recently, she co-founded Civic Duty Rice and started the first policy podcast on campus, “In the Loop.” Ultimately, she is excited to promote healthy and democratic non-partisan discourse across Houston with her Texas Civic Ambassador Project, the first annual Houston Youth Voters’ Conference.
Taylor Helmcamp is a sophomore Top Scholar at the University of Texas at San Antonio studying Global Affairs, Russian Language & Culture, and Linguistics. She is involved in several organizations on campus and holds office in the Russian Communication Club, the UTSA Model United Nations chapter, and Young Americans for Freedom. During her time as an undergraduate student, Taylor has also served as an intern for the LIBRE Initiative, Republican candidate Chris Fails during a state representative election cycle, and the Honorable Judge Randy Crane in South Texas Federal District 5. Taylor enjoys learning languages in her free time, as well as reading philosophical and dystopian novels. She believes civic engagement is the life force of successful communities and is excited to impact her collegiate community as a Texas Civic Ambassador.
To learn more about the Texas Civic Ambassadors Program, please return to our main page.