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Last Friday, March 18 was the second annual Student Voter Registration Day in New York City. SVRD is an unprecedented effort to engage high school students civically and introduce them to the electoral process at an early age, as a way to change the narrative around consistently low youth voter turnout. Dominicanos USA was one of several community based organizations to visit high schools across the city, and not only give presentations on the importance of voting to senior classes, but also register those students to vote.

DUSA had the privilege to visit two different schools in the Bronx and Northern Manhattan: The Bronx High School of Science, and Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School. Over the course of the day, DUSA team members including our State Director, Eddie Cuesta spoke in front of more than 45 senior classes- over 1000 students, and registered more than 550 of those students to vote for the first time. Students also signed a pledge affirming that they will remain civically engaged by registering, voting and being an active member of their community.

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For those of us who spoke to students about the history and importance of the vote, as well as the school officials, and the students themselves, SVRD was an eye opening experience. It’s not often that young people are given an opportunity to express their views on the day to day issues affecting their lives, such as college tuition affordability, affordable housing, public transportation, and the minimum wage. Likewise, it’s unfortunately rare for those of us who want to empower our community – to hear what issues
young people actually care about, and are left to wonder why only 20% of those under 30 years old voted in 2014 nationally.

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When given a chance to voice their opinions students spoke about why young people just weren’t voting: some said that “the system” is broken and they don’t want to be a part of it. Others spoke about their vote not counting since they’re only one of 8 million New Yorkers. That’s why SVRD is so important and DUSA intends to continue its efforts at engaging young people in civic life.

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