Posted In: Educator Voices, Election 2012, Future Educators, Virginia

Busy Virginia student makes time to engage voters on education

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by Johntel Greene

Virginia student activist Brittany Jones has a lot on her plate. She’s enrolled in a master’s program at George Mason University, works full time as a preschool teacher, and somehow finds the time to be involved in this year’s presidential election.

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“For my age group, this year has really opened our eyes to the fact that if you’re not involved then you can’t really complain about what happens,” Jones, 24, told Education Votes. “Before I was really able and eligible to vote, I never really paid that much attention. I just thought that ‘OK, somebody’s going to be president,’ but this year it’s really been heavy.”

Jones, who has her bachelor’s in early and elementary childhood education, is seeing this year’s election from two sides, as both a student and as an educator — two groups whose paths for the future are heavily dependent on the outcome of this election.

Her decision to become an early educator comes from “always having a passion for making a change that I could see, and education just opens so many doors for students.”

Her passion is evident when she’s phone banking or going door to door to speak to potential voters about education and other issues at stake in this election. She asks potential voters, “What is it that you care about? What is it that’s important to you?

“It always gets them thinking about how there’s more to this election. When phone banking, you have to make the connections to home first before you can tell them about a candidate.”

Jones, an NEA Student Program member, feels the student vote will be a deciding factor in this election. “We’re not part of Super PACS, we’re not part of these organizations that have multi-billions of dollars, but we do have a vote and we do have a voice.”

Jones has had her difficulties in reaching some students.  Many of the students she speaks with are cynical or apathetic toward the political process.

“One student I spoke to said she’s not going to vote because she felt that both candidates were equally bad. I told her to think about what matters to her most. Government plays a big role in every aspect of your life, whether you want to believe it or not, whether you’re in school and you’re on grants or if you’re still able to stay on your parents’ insurance. If you’re not paying attention that could easily be taken away. A lot of people don’t understand that the government plays a significant role in their lives. That opened her eyes.”

Virginia’s new restrictive voter laws have also been a big obstacle for students.

Now we have to fight for our right, just like everybody else. You can’t just say, ‘Oh they’re taking it away so I’m not going to vote now because I don’t want to find a picture ID.’ Your voice is the only thing that puts you on a level playing field with everyone, and if you let go of it now, you can’t complain when the government is making decisions for you that you don’t agree with.

Jones said she’s “ready for November 7 so I can relax,” but added that the work isn’t finished after the election. “Now is the perfect time to keep building our momentum and to get more engaged civically so we can start making a real change.”

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