Daphne Flores, Rice University
My relationship with civic engagement the past year has been a whirlwind of emotions. It began with the second Houston Youth Voters Conference (HYVC), continued with the TCA Program and Civic Duty Rice, then study abroad in Berlin, and ending full circle with the preparation for the third HYVC. The Texas Civic Ambassadors Program, in particular, helped me grow personally and professionally. Meeting so many like-minded and talented civic activists was not only intimidating but inspiring. I say intimidating to highlight that the members of my TCA cohort have admirable power and influence, but also to emphasize that the program turned my initial feelings of inadequacy into confidence. I am very grateful for all of the support from Bianca, Katya, Lisa, and others.
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. As Civic Duty Rice and its partners follow through with the next steps for the Houston Youth Voters Conference and whether or not it will be digital, I will carry with me this momentum. Ultimately, I have COVID-19 to thank for new friends and opportunities for growth.
As Rice University has taught me, “improving the world demands more than bold thought and brave action. It takes unconventional wisdom.” The civic community faces new challenges always intertwined with the old ones, and it is by building confidence and cooperating that we will meet them.