LeadMN's 2021 Election Hero, Josh Aguayo
November 1st is recognized as Election Hero Day. The purpose of this day is to celebrate the individuals who make our elections possible. In the spirit of this day, LeadMN would like to recognize one of our students for their amazing contribution to democracy and civic participation.
LeadMN's 2021 Election Hero is Josh Aguayo (he/him) from Minneapolis College. Josh currently serves as the Director of Advocacy on the Minneapolis College Student Senate and is also the Vice President of Raíces Unidas.
Priscilla Mayowa (she/her), LeadMN's Democracy Fellow, had the opportunity to chat with Josh. Read below for the full conversation!
Priscilla: Why did you decide to take on the project around voting?
Josh: I took on the project because I believe voting is such an important thing in our community and it’s a way that kind of gives back the power to decide what representatives are pursuing for our communities. And you know how those things also affect real people, so I think it is important, especially now, after so much political turmoil as well, a lot of hope in our institutions has been lost. I think it's important to bring students back in, by educating them and getting them back into working with the community. Realizing the power of students is really important to me, and I think working with elections and National Voter Registration Day was one of the starting points that I think was really good for Minneapolis College.
Priscilla: When you talk about getting students involved in the community, are you talking just Minneapolis College community? Are you talking like the greater Minneapolis area? How do you define "community"?
Josh Aguayo: The primary community I refer to is Minneapolis College's campus. I believe that if we first engage our campus community, it will lead to a catalyst of change that expands to greater Minneapolis, the state, and the entire U.S. It is our job as a community to push policymakers to make decisions that benefit students, low income families, immigrant families, etc.
Priscilla: We thank you for doing the work. Is this your first time doing any voting-related work?
Josh Aguayo: This is actually my first time leading any election efforts or leading the National Voter Registration Day! I've obviously always been very involved in the voting process, and getting my family educated regarding what's on the ballot. But this is the first time that I've extended now onto a whole campus and on a greater scale.
Priscilla: When you talk about you know doing the work and activating community, what would you say is your inspiration for that?
Josh Aguayo: One of my biggest inspirations has been growing up as a child of immigrants in Minnesota and seeing the struggles they have endured and all the barriers they've had to encounter. Having to navigate life from their point of view has been one of my biggest motivators. Because of them I am now in a position where I can contribute and help other families that may be going through the same things we did. The moment that really sparked my interest in advocating and educating is when my brother in law was deported to his home country. I experienced first hand in seeing how the policies enacted by elected officials affected my family directly. It took a big toll on my family, I had to step up in helping in any way I was needed. It taught me how to be proactive in the midst of all the chaos. It wasn't until I began to reach out to officials in congress that I realized the power I had to make real change by sharing our story, and if by doing that I could make the system a little bit better then that's what I'm going to do.
Priscilla: Thank you so much for sharing. Your story is so important and your voice necessary. You know it's very interesting when we think about why we get into the work. I got into voting work as a non-citizen. But you know it's so important to participate in the democracy that we have now and get our voices out there and get our stories out there and I really appreciate you sharing.
Josh Aguayo: [Engaging with non-citizens] is something we also wanted to push at our National Voter Registration Day efforts. And that's why one of the big things we did at the campus was a giveaway including every single student, even if you are not eligible to vote, we still wanted to still have everyone be able to participate and also educate them and share a little bit of the process as well, because at the end of the day, I feel like when I go to vote I'm voting for them.
Priscilla: These are really, really great answers and I'm so glad that you have participated in this work. I'm very excited to see what you do next.
Josh Aguayo: I'm hoping for the best outcomes and I think this year has a lot of big changes and things we are voting for that are extremely important, so I'm hoping for the best. I have hope in young voters and in seeing bigger changes to come.
Priscilla: Thank you for meeting with me. Congratulations again on being our election hero.
Josh Aguayo: I appreciate that, thank you so much.
Do you have an elections or voting story you'd like to share? Send us a message at email@example.com!