Why Voting Matters
Lety Gomez, Senior Education Organizer, Rocketship Texas
I was born and raised on the east side of San Jose, California. I grew up in a low-income area, where choices and power weren’t something my family knew we had. My parents immigrated from Mexico to California to provide a better life for our family. They trusted the US education system as it was and thought that by making sure we attended school every day, we would be prepared academically to achieve our dreams. But they didn’t know that the system was set up to fail us.
Voting wasn’t a practice that was instilled in me growing up. Yes, I knew that once I turned 18, I could vote, but I didn’t make it a priority. I registered to vote but mainly voted during presidential elections and didn’t bother to research everything on the ballot.
It wasn’t until I became a Rocketship parent leader that I realized the power of not only my voice but my vote! I realized how important local elections are when I went through the process of advocating for Rocketship Fuerza to be approved. I witnessed school board members who looked like us, who spoke like us, who represented us, disrespecting us. Saying things like, we were just being bribed to be there with pizza and shirts and that we were being told what to say and we didn’t know any better. Those board members voted to deny our charter application at the district level! But instead of giving up, we appealed to the Santa Clara County Office of Education, and that school board UNANIMOUSLY approved Rocketship Fuerza to open in east San Jose!
During that process, I realized how important it is to know who is running for local elections, so I worked with parent leaders from various charter schools in San Jose to organize the first parent-led mayoral candidate forum in San Jose. We wanted to make sure that our charter communities knew who was running for local elections and how they could utilize their power at the polls to have a say in who represents them and their families.
Before the candidate’s forum, we invited candidates to meet with us, parents, in what we call research meetings. One candidate who was not charter-friendly refused to meet with us. His campaign manager told me he was “too busy”, but the candidate ended up agreeing to attend the forum because of pressure from leaders who told him that his opponent would be in attendance. The night of the forum, over 1,200 people attended – it was packed! When the candidate, who refused to meet with us arrived, he saw the turnout, and his facial expression was priceless! I introduced myself and he asked, “Did you request to meet with me prior to tonight?” And I responded, “Yes, but your campaign manager said you were too busy to meet with us parents.” He said, “I’m sorry if you want, we can meet anytime afterward.” That’s the moment that I realized the power we have as a charter community when we work together, the power we have as constituents, especially during election season. I realized the POWER of my vote and all our votes! (PS…. he didn’t win that election.)
Today, my advocacy work continues with Rocketship Texas. In Texas, only 43% of our Rocketship parents and caregivers are registered to vote. I have made it a priority in Texas to support our families in accessing their right to vote by becoming a Volunteer Deputy Registrar in Tarrant County and providing opportunities for our Rocketship families to register to vote at school events. We send voting information to families regularly throughout the school year, and during the 2022 midterm and 2023 municipal elections, our Parent Organizing Committee (POC) chose a day to head to the polls together as a community, in order to support one another and not feel intimidated at their polling sites.
One of our RDDE parent leaders, Dezarae, recently had a similar revelation to my own, after attending a community event hosted by her State Representative. She said, “I didn’t know my voice and my vote mattered until I started being part of the [Rocketship] POC. Now I know how important it is to be informed and that my vote can make a difference.”
September 19th is National Voter Registration Day, and our Rocketship Texas Parent Organizing Committee will be hosting a celebration with guest speakers from the community, in hopes of motivating families to register to vote! We will continue to send home voting information and host voter registration tabling at upcoming school events throughout the year. Some of our parent leaders are even considering becoming Volunteer Deputy Registrars like me to help more of our Rocketship communities with registering to vote!
If you’re able to vote and haven’t already, please take a moment to register to vote. You can also support your own community by encouraging your friends and colleagues to exercise their right to vote. Our communities’ votes matter and make a difference for our movement!
Lety & her daughter, Gigi, in 2018.
Lety & Gigi in 2023.
Published on September 19, 2023