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RYSE gives youth electoral voice

on November 8, 2016

Richmond’s RYSE Youth Center gave kids too young to vote a voice in this year’s electoral—with a mock vote held this evening.

The center, which opened its doors in 2008, has been holding mock elections since that year’s election.

“[It’s] important to expose young people to this kind of electoral process and get them interested in voting,” Jamileh Ebrahimi, the director of the Youth Organizing Department, said.

Tonight’s mock vote saw a unanimous victory for the Democrats, with a majority voting for Hillary Clinton and two write-ins for Bernie Sanders.

“There were zero Trumps,” said RYSE Youth Organizing Coordinator Deanna Gao, with a laugh. “There’s a pretty passionate consensus here about that.”

At the center, Black Lives Matter posters, art and inspirational quotes about youth empowerment covers the walls. A Donald Trump piñata—brought in just for the night—hung from the ceiling.

RYSE’s mock vote offers an opportunity for those whose age or legal status prevents them from voting to feel engaged in the electoral process, Ebrahimi said.

“That’s really what inspires the work that we do—trying to really make sure that we’re supporting youth, not only in their health, well-being and safety but also supporting them in being able to really exercise their voice to exercise their power,” said Gao.

With the mock—and real—elections almost behind it, RYSE is planning to turn its attention to the Kids First Ballot Initiative, which is slated to be on the June 2018 ballot. The proposed ballot measure would dedicate three percent of the city’s unrestricted general fund over the next ten years to special fund for youth services in Richmond.

“The youth organizing department here at RYSE is really supporting youth to build their power,” said Gao.

“Engaging in the electoral process and engaging with elected officials,” she said, “is something that we hold as important and as a value at RYSE.”

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