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Promoting Civic Engagement in Local Politics

This election year has been rocked by a global pandemic, massive unemployment, and protests for social justice. As we all shifted towards digital communication, there was suddenly a need for a way for the community to voice all their political concerns. CommUniverCity served California State Senate District 15 by hosting a virtual Candidate Forum on October 14th to engage local residents with the candidates running to represent them. 

SJSU students enrolled in Professor Currin-Percival’s Political Science 108 course dedicated their time and efforts to create and organize the forum. Some students were tasked with creating a flyer while others worked on drafting the agenda and a list of questions for the candidates. CommUniverCity aided in the outreach process by inviting community groups to co-sponsor the forum. This way, neighborhood advocates and leaders can reach out to their members as well. Flyers with the registration link were passed out to BART Village Advocates, Friends of Five Wound Trail, Olinder-Brookwood NA, Roosevelt Park NA, Little Portugal East NA, McKinley-Bonita NA, Plata Arroyo NA, East Santa Clara Business Association and Alum Rock Business Network. SJSU Votes! took part in social media outreach to SJSU students. 

“I wanted to learn more about what plans the candidates have for our community.”

Mona Lerma, McKinley-Bonita Neighborhood Association 

Students worked diligently to prepare by observing past candidate forums, assigning roles for the live event, and accommodating Spanish-speakers by translating the program and flyers into Spanish.When it came to event day, students were quite nervous, but ready and excited. This was the first experience of civic mobilization for many. Candidate Ann Ravel was appointed by President Obama to the Federal Election Commission and spent her career chasing after dark money groups like the Koch Brothers. Opposing candidate Dave Cortese served in the San Jose Council and Santa Clara County and focused a lot of his work around education. 

We had the honor of having Damian Trujillo from NBC Bay Area host the night. Students introduced the event in both English and Spanish, which set the tone for the rest of the night and encouraged both candidates to engage in Spanish. Behind the scenes were students live collaborating to meticulously filter out the best questions for the candidates. Questions asked touched on pressing issues such as pandemic response, police brutality, environmental sustainability, civic engagement, and budgeting. Approximately 58 local residents were able to attend the virtual forum and have a voice in their political process. 

“[Working on the forum] made us feel proud of the hard work we’ve been doing. [I] won’t forget Ann Ravel said ‘this was most organized event she took part in this year”

Yvonne Inciarte, Political Science ‘22

CommUniverCity is proud to bridge the connection between communities and their representatives. Simultaneously, we ignite a passion for civic engagement when SJSU students take part in organizing and leading the event.

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