May 29, 2022, Yvette Mendoza
One of the many wonderful programs offered by the Annette Strauss Institute at the University of Texas at Austin is the Texas Civic Ambassadors program, which I was fortunate to be selected for last year. I was one of approximately 30 such students selected, and this past weekend, many of us descended on Austin to participate in the TCA’s closing ceremonies.
I was able to meet with people from El Paso, the Rio Grande Valley, north Texas, and I, of course, represented SHSU and East Texas.
The Institute brought in public servants to speak to us, including Austin’s Mayor, Steve Adler and Matt Glazer. Both provided insights into civic engagement, from Adler’s discussion of how he tackled a pandemic in Austin, and Glazer discussed how change occurs–by caring, by being present, by stepping up, contributing, being accountable, advocating, and planning.
While we learned from these public servants, we also learned from each other. Each TCA presented their project and what progress they have made thus far. It included creating a Latinx open house, voter registration drives, getting junior high and high schoolers civically involved, and the like.
My project, Beyond Bars, focuses explicitly on civically educating the students at Sam Houston and the citizens of Huntsville on the incarceration process–from arrest, to prosecution, to incarceration and alternatives to incarceration, to rehabilitation and reentry.
Along with listening to one another, we also had the opportunity to network with TCA alumni and other people who have significantly impacted our state with various nonprofit organizations.
To top off our ceremony, we didn’t leave without getting a taste of Austin at Kerbey Lane; this gave us a chance to say our goodbyes but never forgot our love for engagement.
I am incredibly grateful for the various opportunities I have been given in this program, and I will continue to use what I have learned at Annette Strauss Institute on my path of continuing civic engagement.