U. Colorado Activist Training Workshop Covers Politics, Participation

This story was written by Emery Cowan, Campus Press
For students and community members looking to get involved this election season, the nationwide Get Out Her Vote summit and activist training is providing the opportunity to do just that.

Sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation, the all day Saturday summit will teach participants how to organize voter registration drives, start grassroots campaigns and create a message that effectively reaches people.

The summit is also aiming to inform people about what issues will be on the ballot in November and to spread the message of the importance of voting, said Mayra Gomez, the West Coast campus organizer for the Feminist Majority Foundation. She emphasized that the summit is open to all faculty and students in Colorado who are interested in what is going on in the political landscape.

"We have a motto of educate, activate and lead," she said. "We want people to really understand and become passionate about issues because they will affect us all."

The summit is being held at the University of Colorado in Hellems 141 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is free to all participants. The summit is featuring intensive training broken down into workshops, educational sessions, keynote speakers from the Feminist Majority Foundation and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights and a film showing.

Get Out Her Vote organizers teamed up with the Student Outreach Retention Center for Equity for this year's summit, a partnership that both groups say works well because they have similar goals of empowering underrepresented groups.

"We are reaching out to the same communities," said Olivia Ortiz, a national campus organizer for the Feminist Majority Foundation. "So this is really a collaborative effort."

One of the major focuses of Saturday's event is also to increase voter registration among women and people of color, Gomez said.

"The more we motivate young, women voters and voters of color, the more we have the potential to change the political landscape to a more progressive viewpoint," she said. "We can make a difference; it's just a matter of going out to the polls and voting."

Gomez added that young people and especially women have the most at stake in the upcoming election, yet 18 to 24-year-old women are the least likely population to vote.

An anti-affirmative action initiative and an anti-choice initiative are two issues that most affect women and minorities, Gomez said. The summit is aiming to explain these topics as well as explore other controversial issues in the election, including human rights, labor laws, the United States' role in Iraq and loans for college students.

Virginia Sanprie, a communication graduate student and co-founder of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance chapter at CU, said she is excited by the goals of the summit.

"Especially on campus where we know there is a trend toward apathy among college students, whatever we can do to inspire college students to get out and vote is a great thing," Sanprie said.

Sanprie also said she is a firm believer that women's rights are people's rights, making even the feminist-oriented topics of the summit relevant for male and female participants.

While the summit seems to be aiming to address many different issues and topics, Gomez emphasized one central goal for the day.

"The best thing is having people come to the summit not knowing what to expect and then having them at the end of the day find their niche and their passion within the whole movement," she said. "When people come out of there wanting to change the political climate on campus and in their community it's really refreshing to see."
© 2008 Campus Press via U-WIRE