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Young activists promote civic engagement ahead of Tuesday's elections

Marquetta Atkins and group.jpg
Carla Eckels
/
KMUW
Marquetta Atkins speaks with student Dione Ramos [on her left], student Bethany Hollingsworth [right], Root The Power Director Jondalyn Marshall [black hat], and student Alondra Lerma about voting. The vote mob took place in front of the Historic Court House in downtown Wichita which houses the Sedgwick County Election office.

A youth-led vote mob took place Tuesday outside of the Historic Court House in Wichita. They were celebrating the act of voting with music and food — all part of an effort to get more people to vote.

Sophia Lopez.jpg
Carla Eckels
Sophia Lopez a perfor,mer with House of Rock ICT, sings Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” at a vote mob event.

The group included high schoolers and college students. Some played instruments and sang on the grassy lawn as part of the House of Rock ICT band. Others shared testimonials about the importance of voting.

Marquetta Atkins, executive director and founder of Destination Innovation, helped create the program called "Root the Power" to get young people civically engaged. She says the vote mob is one of several projects to motivate youth to learn how to vote, become familiar with the candidates, as well as engage in the process.

"If they don't have the power to vote, they have the power of their voice and that is a catalyst to change," Atkins says.

She says it's key to learn who is in charge of making decisions.

Bethany Hollingsworth.jpg
Carla Eckels
Bethany Hollingsworth participating in the vote mob to encourage first time voters. She says she’ll also cast her vote while there at the Sedgwick County Election office.

Wichita State University student Bethany Hollingsworth says she came out to vote and support first-time voters.

"I think it's really important because we don't realize that politics and who we put into office affects every part of our lives. If we really want to improve the quality of life for ourselves and others, we need to really do our duty and vote," Hollingsworth said.

Alondra Lerma agrees with Hollingsworth. She's been a part of the program since she was a junior in high school. Now, she's a junior at WSU and can vote. She says it's a huge opportunity.

Alondra Lerma.jpg
Carla Eckels
Alondra Lerma joins in the vote mob. Lerma says it’s important to get involved. If you can’t vote there are other ways to participate like becoming a poll worker.

"Especially since a lot of people, especially in my family particularly, we don't have the privilege to vote so a lot of the privilege that you choose not to take advantage of — can go to waste," Lerma said. "There's like a lot of untouched potential there that you can really take advantage of and make sure that your voice is heard."

Make sure your voice is heard, but what if you are under 18 and aren't eligible to vote just yet? Lerma says you still join in.

"Do not let that discourage you because you also have opportunities to work as an election poll worker, a site poll worker, where you can also get paid for the opportunity to just to learn how the process is and you get to have fun and make money and get involved," Lerma said.

Sedgwick County is still accepting poll workers. Early voting at the Sedgwick County Election office runs through Monday, November 1 at noon. Election Day is on Tuesday, November 2nd.