In 2018, a group of University of Oklahoma students decided to start a campus chapter of Voto Latino, which according to its website is “focused on educating and empowering a new generation of Latinx voters, as well as creating a more robust and inclusive democracy.”
Of the original group who began the student organization at OU, three are still current students, including senior Heidy Briones, who serves as the chapter’s chair. What started as a conversation between Briones and some friends eventually turned into an organization that now has about 20 members.
“All of us were sharing our ideas, what we wanted to see, what we wanted the outcome to be, and what kind of events we wanted to put on in the community,” Briones shared. “I grew up not really knowing a lot about politics since both of my parents are immigrants, and they just don’t understand the political system here in the United States. Nobody talked to me about voting until I started getting involved in other organizations, so I want to make sure that I am reaching that audience of students who don’t have any background in voting.”
Recently, Voto Latino has coordinated events to engage with people both on and outside of campus. The group paired with OU’s Latino Programs and Services office to host a voting informational as part of Hispanic Heritage Month and collaborated with Rock the Native Vote to hold an event at Wheeler Park in Oklahoma City on National Voter Registration Day. In addition to voter registration, Voto Latino also holds educational seminars and has also focused on encouraging people to fill out the census, both through hosting an event and reminding people of those deadlines.
For Briones, a first-generation college student who graduated from Southeast High School in Oklahoma City, the financial aspect of having Oklahoma’s Promise and Crimson Commitment led to her decision to attend OU. In addition to Voto Latino, Briones is also a sister of the Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, is part of the Hispanic American Student Association, and works as a Diversity Enrichment Programs intern.
“If you’re passionate about something and you want that support system, you will always have that at OU,” Briones shared. “I found people who were passionate about voting and registering other people, specifically in the Latinx community. If you have an idea, if you want to bring something to campus, you will have the opportunity to put that into practice.”