(Originally written Aug. 1, 2018)
I’ve nearly concluded by eleventh week with For Our Future Ohio, which culminated in the presentation of our aforementioned nonpartisan voter education training to a group of twelve Nepalese high school students at The Exchange House, a community center in Akron. The day began earlier than usual: I arrived at our office at approximately 8:00am, after which our training director and I journeyed to Akron, arriving at 10:00am. The event itself began reasonably well. Though the students, as a result of some miscommunication, were not made aware of the training by their organization’s administrator, they were nevertheless eager to participate. Our presentation consisted of three primary components: education on basic democratic principles (i.e., rule of law, separation of powers, etc.), an overview of American civics (branches of government, federalism, etc.), and an introduction to the voting process. Though the students struggled with certain elements of each segment, they learned quickly and enthusiastically. The most effective elements of our training, naturally, were those that required active participation from the students. To this end, in conjunction with our training director, I had developed a jeopardy game incorporating questions about civics and democratic principles, as well as a sample ballot which the students completed following the conclusion of our training. During both the game and the voting exercise, the students eagerly researched and engaged with our material and ultimately learned a great deal about the U.S. system of government and voting process – as reflected in their careful research and consideration of each candidate on our Ohio midterm election sample ballot.
As enriching as our event may have been for the students, we also learned much from the students. From eating a traditional Nepalese lunch to observing the remarkable way in which the students seamlessly integrated Nepalese and U.S. cultures – speaking both English and Nepalese, and encouraging others – in Nepalese – to engage with our training – our staff’s belief in the strength of America as a nation of immigrants was reinforced.
Moving forward, we hope to continue to engage immigrant communities in several ways – holding similar trainings and events for adult immigrants, actively seeking to register and engage immigrant communities politically, and empowering members of Ohio’s diverse immigrant communities to engage the system themselves, affording them the support and infrastructure necessary to attain electoral office. I feel privileged to have been some small part of this mission and look forward to continuing to support it moving forward.