New U.S. citizen makes voting priority, helps other families engage in right, privilege
Posted March 1, 2016
I’ll never forget the day - Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. I had my appointment with immigration to take my citizenship test to finally take the huge step towards becoming a citizen of the United States of America.
But that appointment had to be rescheduled because I gave birth to my second child the day before I was supposed to take the test. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to reschedule my appointment and that I may not be able to vote later in the year.
I had given a lot of consideration to becoming a citizen of the United States. I have lived in the United States since I was 12. I am very proud of my birth country and how amazing it is to be Mexican, but I am also very proud that my children were born here and are citizens of the United States. As my children got older, I realized how important it was for me to be a citizen, too. I am grateful for the opportunities I have here and I made it my goal to once again apply to take the citizenship test.
I went to my citizenship ceremony alone and passed the test. I was so excited to surprise everyone that I did it!
There are lots of responsibilities that come with being a citizen and I knew one of the biggest responsibilities was to be a voter. That year, 2012, was an election year and a new president was about to be elected in November. I wanted to make sure I could vote because I knew my vote was important, and I wanted the voices of women and Hispanics to be heard.
I started to learn more about where the candidates stood on issues that are important to my family. As a mom of young kids, including one with special needs, I wanted to make sure I voted for who I felt was the right candidate on issues like childcare, health care and jobs. I didn't know a lot about politics, but I knew which issues mattered to me and who spoke on those issues in ways I supported. That was enough for me to feel confidence and vote.
Since I was able to register to vote during the citizenship ceremony, all I had to do was figure out the location. I ended up going to Githens Middle School, the school I went to years before. I remember wearing a white shirt with the Mexico flag. I was proud of my heritage, but also proud to exercise my right as a citizen of the United States. I walked into the voting room very confident and I didn't hesitate in my answers at all. I remember getting the "I voted" sticker and placing it on my shirt. I went outside and asked someone to take a picture of me. I was so excited to share that picture! It felt good to know that I was part of this country and my vote made a difference.
As we approach the 2016 elections, I feel strongly motivated and empowered to vote. I know my vote makes a different and it will continue to do so. I'm setting an example, not just for my kids, but for all women. As a Mexican-American woman, I’m not turning my back on my heritage, but embracing the country where I spent half my childhood and where my children were born. My vote matters, and my voice does too!
I hope you will join me as I use my outside voice – inside – and VOTE at the early voting party and parade to the polls in Durham on Saturday.
Here are all the details:
What: Kids Voting Durham, MomsRising.org, You Can Vote, Durham Association of Educators, Lango Kids RTP, and other family groups are joining forces to help make voting a super family affair. We’ll kick off the first weekend of early voting with a special voting-related party with voting for kids, snacks, a special library story time and democracy-inspired activities and crafts at the Durham Main Library. Bring your wagons and strollers to decorate. Patriotic dress or costumes welcome!
The party starts at 10 a.m. Children and adults can take pictures in a photo booth, make instruments and take part in other crafts and activities. At 11:15 a.m., the marching band will lead the way to parade through downtown Durham to the early voting location at 201 N. Roxboro St. where parents can cast their vote. First-time voters will lead the way in the parade to celebrate their first time voting. The event is nonpartisan.
The library story time and event will be in both English and Spanish. Follow along on Twitter with #NCVotes and share photos of your family voting! If you are unable to attend, we still hope to see pictures of your family voting traditions, new and old!
When: 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, March 5. The party starts at 10 a.m. The rally and parade start at 11:15 a.m.
Where: Durham Main Library Auditorium, 300 N. Roxboro St, ending at the downtown early voting location at 201 N. Roxboro St., Durham (Durham Board of Elections).
Questions? Contact Beth Messersmith, MomsRising, at 919-323-6179 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Carolyn Kreuger, Kids Voting Durham, 919-560-7321, email@example.com, or visit their website at www.kidsvotingdurhamnc.org
Like so many thing in life, kids will do what they see their parents do. Let’s take our kids to vote and show them it’s something worth celebrating! You can find information about voting locations across the state on the N.C. Board of Elections website.
Sheila is a Durham mother of two and a member of MomsRising/MamásConPoder.