Turning 18 was a big deal for me. I couldn’t wait to be a legal “adult,” even though, in reality, it meant very little. I still lived at home with my parents, I still had a curfew, and I still wasn’t allowed to have boys in my room. But, one thing I was able to do was register to vote. I did so shortly after my birthday, and I’ve been a regular voter ever since.
Maria Teresa Kumar has made it her mission to make sure that other young, Latino(a) voters are as excited about voting as I was. Born in Colombia, she is a a graduate of UC Davis and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. After starting her career as a legislative aid, she became the founder and CEO of Voto Latino, a civic media organization that registers voters, educates the electorate, trains future Latino(a) leaders and engages in policy advocacy. Voto Latino’s strategy has been to utilize technology in creative ways. It was the first organization to mobilize voting through text campaigns. It regularly leverages celebrity star power to reach potential young voters and it partners with other media outlets to produce programming aimed at shedding light on important issues.
Maria Teresa’s work has earned her all kinds of accolades, including being named one of the 20 most notable Latinos under 40 by PODER Magazine, and numerous leadership awards from the White House Project, Imagen Foundation and the New York legislature. She even has an Emmy nomination for her work on “Beyond Borderlines,” the first televised English-language town hall to focus on the emerging role of Latinos in U.S. society and politics
No matter what your political leanings, we can all agree that voting is our most important civic responsibility, and Maria Teresa is doing her part to make sure that our youth takes this responsibility seriously. For that, she gets this week’s Spotlight.
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