HAPPY CENSUS DAY! (Not an April Fool’s joke…today is actually Census Day!)
Woah, woah, slow down. What the heck is the Census and why should I care?
The Census is an official count of every person living in the United States. It impacts how the government uses its resources, how we are represented, what programs are funded and so much more. The Census only occurs every 10 years, and the 2020 Census is happening RIGHT NOW. Making sure every young person is counted fairly and accurately is a huge deal and everyone has a role to play in ensuring a full count.
Okay, but why should I care?
Especially as the world seems like it’s crumbling into a global crisis and I’m seriously worried about myself and my family/friends (we’re with you! Please stay safe.) First things first, the Census determines the amount of funds available for disaster relief, and helps determine where new hospitals should go. Census data, especially accurate census data, means our communities are safer in the future.
An accurate census is VERY important for young people – especially if you use public transit, attend public school, need access to affordable housing, or use one of the countless government services that rely on Census data. Getting counted means that these resources can be shared equitably. Do you want your school to have the funding it needs? Do you want your community to have a grocery store where people really need it? Do you want the city’s next bus line to go through your neighborhood? Make sure you get counted in the 2020 Census!
Alright…this thing is important. Now what?
Today is Census Day! Aka the best time ever to fill out your Census form! You should’ve received a Census letter in the mail. That will have info for how to respond online (or via phone or mail). If you didn’t get that, you should go to 2020census.gov right now and respond. Be sure to include everyone you currently live with.
The sooner you respond online, the less likely a Census worker will need to stop by your home to collect info. Given recent COVID-19 concerns, responding online is the safest way to ensure you are counted.
I have more questions. Where can I find answers?
After months of chatting with young folks about the Census we’ve heard a lot of common questions and we’ve put together a list of handy answers that you can check out right here. Still have questions? Check out census.gov!
Want to do more to help? Volunteer with the Bus and help us Get Out The Count! We’re hosting weekly *remote* volunteer events as we work together to spread the word on Census! Sign up here.
With two new Co-Executive Directors starting earlier this month, we here at the Bus were feeling ready to take on the world! Or at least, ready to continue building our statewide movement to increase political access and participation for all young people #youthquake. Enter COVID-19, the virus that is having an unprecedented impact on the lives of each of us, and that of our loved ones and our communities.
We care about our community, especially those who are likely to be disproportionately affected by this pandemic and the narrative surrounding it– people of color, immigrants, people with a low-income, and those that are incarcerated. We’re here to do our part.
Like you, the Bus values inclusion, empowerment and justice, and it is out of these values that we are continuing to do our work. With an eye to the health and safety of the community, we’ve made some adjustments, because we know democracy must go on:
Our staff has been working remotely since March 16 and will continue to do so through at least April 8 (per Governor Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order), if not longer. The health and safety of our staff and the community is number one.
We have shifted our current programming away from face-to-face field work and towards digital organizing and other remote strategies. Last week we kicked off our remote Census 2020 outreach and have held two “Get Out the Count” remote text banking sessions, yielding over 25,000 texts! We will be holding a remote phone/text bank every week to ensure our communities know to complete the census.
We have cancelled the in-person Bus Bash fundraiser and instead will be sharing virtual opportunities so you can continue to support our work and the 2020 Fellows when they begin the program this June. Stay tuned for updates.
We are fortunate to have the ability and privilege to practice the above-mentioned physical distancing.
We are in this together. We’d like to invite you to join us in whatever way you are able. Here’s how you can be with the Bus as we ride out this COVID storm:
Take care of yourself. We care about you and we need you. There are loads of resources available from our state here: https://www.coronavirus.wa.gov/
Complete the Census! Let’s help our community get the vital resources for its greatest moments of need (like right now).
Join a GOTC phone/text bank! Sign up here for the remarkably de-stressing activity of contacting strangers about democracy.
If you were planning to attend Bus Bash and your financial situation is stable, you can still support our work with a 100% tax-deductible gift in honor of Bus Bash.
Fight racism, xenophobia and ableism. This pandemic is feeding the long history of how immigrant groups and people of color have been labeled with “disease” imagery. We encourage each other to address the jokes and do their part to support people of color during this time.
Together, let us rise to this new challenge. Let us continue to demand that local and state governments adopt policies that protect historically disenfranchised communities and meet the needs of all people, not just some. And let us get innovative and creative with how we do this now, in the time of the Coronavirus, and for the long-term beyond.
The Bus Team
WA Bus staff during a virtual team meeting.
The Washington Bus is thrilled to announce that we have named our two Co-Executive Directors. After much anticipation, please join us in welcoming Cinthia Illan-Vazquez, Co-Executive Director for Policy and Program, and Kelly Hickman, Co-Executive Director for Operations and Development! Throughout the search and selection process, both Kelly and Cinthia emerged as the best leaders for our organization and to support our powerful team. Their leadership couldn’t come at a more perfect time. As we move into an important election cycle, we are excited to strengthen our movement of engaging young people in civic life and to lead with strong anti-racist, inclusive, and equitable values. We are grateful to the entire Bus community for your support throughout this process. The Board of Directors would like to extend a special thank you to the Washington Bus staff, Annie, Danny, Leila, Libby, Mo, and Xinyu, and our Interim Executive Director, Amy Wasser, for their excellent work during this transition period.
Cinthia and Kelly will begin their new positions together on Wednesday, March 4th and look forward to being in touch with you. Their contact info can be found on our staff page. Put your party hats on — we’ll be announcing a party in their honor soon!
Cinthia (she/her/ella) joins the Bus from her role as Community Engagement Manager at the Center for Education Results where she led and supported various community engagement efforts and strategies. Her drive to bring access and equity to our political and civic process solidified when she was a Fellow and, later, the Fellowship Coordinator at the Bus. Previously, Cinthia served as legislative assistant to current Speaker of the Washington State House of Representatives Laurie Jinkins, and as a community organizer with the Washington Dream Coalition, an undocumented and youth-led advocacy organization. She believes in the importance of people-centered movements aimed at dismantling systems of oppression through policy. Cinthia is excited to leverage her skills to amplify the Bus’s mission. Away from the office, she enjoys outdoor activities that connect her to the indigenous lands we are occupying.
Kelly (she/her/hers) joins the Bus from her previous role as Assistant Director at the Missions Office of the Archdiocese of Seattle. She is a highly collaborative and passionate leader with nearly eight years of nonprofit co-directing experience inspiring people to meaningful civic action. She is deeply committed to building inclusive strategies to create a more equitable society for everyone. She holds a Master’s degree in Transforming Spirituality from Seattle University. Kelly is a third generation Seattleite who grew up in north Seattle. Away from the office, she spends lots of time with family and friends, snuggling her cat Leeloo, and dollhousing.
Seferiana Day, Washington Bus Board President
Aaron Robertson, Washington Bus Education Fund Board President
Election szn is here!
We have said goodbye to our Summer Fellows, Candidate Survivor gowns, and Capitol Hill Block Party gear for the year. Don’t worry — things are far from winding down. High school and college campus voter registration drives are in full-swing and we are here for it. Bus staff and volunteers took over Western Washington University for Move-In Weekend. In partnership with Western Votes, a student-led organization, we registered 1,700 students to vote in just three days. As incoming students grabbed their dorm keys, our team ensured they updated their voter information to receive their ballots at their current mailing address. Many students registered for the first time!
Why register students to vote on college campuses? Registering college students every year is a major way to drive up voter turnout among young people. We need to be meeting students where they are. Despite Washington’s newly extended voter registration deadline of October 28th, students will still need to update their information if they moved over the summer. Since a majority of university students are renters, this is an important effort.
We want to make it easy to register to vote. Many students are juggling school with work (sometimes more than one job) and family responsibilities. More and more student organizations are investing in civics education and voter registration to amplify the voices in their communities. And guess what? It’s working. Last year, midterm turnout for young voters (ages 18-29) is up to 31% — that’s millions more than in 2014.
Civic engagement brings together communities on campus. Voter registration efforts like Western Votes attract students from various of backgrounds, majors, and political passions. Western Votes alum, Ari Winter, explains, “Coming to Western was easier for me because I had other passionate folks volunteering around me. Western Votes has been a transformational experience for me as a student, voter, activist, and human being.” This is why we do the work we do: youth-led movements are powerful and deserve support.
We believe our democracy works best when everyone can participate. Good things happen when elected officials know who’s voting. Young voters who advocate for affordable housing, climate justice, reproductive justice and more can make a real difference in their legislators’ priorities. In just the last two weeks, the Bus has registered more than 700 high school students to vote — now we want to turn that energy into turnout in November.
Sound like fun and you want to volunteer? Or, do you want to run your own voter registration drive? Reach out to Emma Scalzo at emma[at]washingtonbus[dot]org.
A Personal Message from the Board of Directors
Dear Bus Family and Friends,
The Board of Directors is excited to announce Amy Wasser as the Interim Executive Director of The Washington Bus. Amy joins the Bus as a seasoned nonprofit leader and a skilled organizational strategist. She most recently served as the Interim Executive Director at University Beyond Bars. We are confident that Amy’s energy and collaborative approach will be great assets to the Bus.
Over the course of the year, Amy will lead our board, staff, and stakeholders through a strategic planning process and the search for our next Executive Director. We’re so grateful to the Bus community for your steadfast support and look forward to announcing opportunities to meet Amy and the team. Please join us in welcoming Amy to the Bus and read a message from Amy below.
Seferiana Day, Michael Hill, and Aaron Robertson
Executive Committee, Board of Directors
A Letter from the Interim Executive Director
I am honored to have been named the Interim Executive Director of The Washington Bus, an organization that has a direct impact on the issues important to young people today and for the future. I have been a nonprofit professional for over 20 years and have spent the majority of my career assisting organizations with success/strategic planning, operations, and human resource development. I look forward to doing the same for the Bus and to meeting you at one of our events or programs soon. If you would like to meet with me one-on-one, please feel free to reach out to me via email at amy[at]washingtonbus[dot]org.
If you haven’t yet, please click here to read about our work last year in our 2018 Impact Report.
Interim Executive Director
Interested in contributing to our work this year? Just click here.
Written by the 2018 Washington Bus Fall Interns: Octo, Avery and Maya
One of the best things about interning at the Bus is the sense of community we build and the way we empower people through our work. This fall, we worked tirelessly to register voters before the election, and Get Out The Vote (GOTV) after ballots were mailed. We focused on bringing voter registration to students instead of making them come to us. We organized with high schools and local community colleges, giving class presentations and canvassing on college campuses. We also had tables with information about voting and about the Bus at events at the Vera Project, a youth-based arts organization, as well as at events like the SEIU 775 conference. At the Bus, our mission is to combat misinformation about voting, let people know how easy it is to vote in Washington, and help youth and other marginalized groups better engage in politics. Our GOTV work consisted of phonebanks in our office and doorknocking events in King County and Pierce County. We could not have accomplished our GOTV goals without our amazing volunteers. We fostered a sense of community at our phonebanks as we ate snacks, discussed interesting calls and watched fun movies together. For us, it’s important to remember that politics isn’t just about people in suits making decisions – it’s about people like us, being able to have fun while taking charge of our lives and working to improve the world around us. Our work this fall made a difference in local elections. All of our endorsed candidates won their elections. We registered 3,811 people to vote, made 16,503 phone calls and knocked on 1,397 doors. We had meaningful conversations with many young people about why they need to vote and, most importantly, we had fun doing it!
On GOTV weekends, we door knocked with Bus staff in the 30th and 47th legislative districts around Kent and Federal Way. Like phone banking, this activity required us to talk to strangers about their excitement for voting. The main difference is that we were meeting people in person in front of their house on a Saturday or Sunday morning. In addition to inquiring about people’s excitement to vote, we also asked people if they would be willing to endorse progressive candidates. Luckily, we had partners when we went door knocking around different neighborhoods, so there was always a good support system in case someone forgot a talking point or an unexpected conversation developed. The partnerships were perhaps the most engaging part because it meant closely working with someone you may not know. My most memorable experience was with a volunteer from Nathan Hale.Working with this volunteer meant I got to share how I step outside of my comfort zone to engage in conversation. He was definitely nervous about talking to strangers, but throughout the day I provided opportunities for him to speak about ballot submission and the endorsed candidates. Through partnerships like this one, we could exchange our knowledge on how to engage voters, which helped everyone build on their experiences. We are proud of the community fostered in these personal and shared experiences because it contributed to greater voter turnout. Staff, volunteers, and interns alike grow into a community while working together to canvass. It was amazing to see people from various backgrounds feel united around political activism and we’re glad to tell you that it was a blast.
[Image description: Octo smiling at camera]
For me, Avery, one of the best experiences of my internship was visiting a school that is a part of Seattle Interagency Academy. Seattle Interagency Academy is a network of small high schools that provide education for students who have been unable to continue their schooling in the mainstream Seattle Public Schools. We visited the school to host a voter registration drive and to do class presentations about civic engagement. During our presentation we all sat in a circle to talk about voting and what voting meant to us. When we asked who in the group was planning to vote, only two or three of the thirty-odd students raised their hands. We went around the circle asking people why they didn’t vote, their answers weren’t surprising: “I don’t think it matters,” “The government doesn’t care about people like me,” “It’s not worth my time.” These are all things we’ve heard from a lot of other students from marginalized backgrounds, as there isn’t a lot of evidence they can see about politicians caring about their needs. Will, the Bus staff lead, and I, shared stories about believing those same things when we were younger. A single vote may not feel like it matters, but as a group our votes count. We explained to the students that voting is a way they can take the future into their own hands and try to ensure it’s not just politicians who get to make decisions about their lives. By the end of our time there, almost every eligible student had registered to vote. A lot of students thanked us and said the presentation made them feel like they had a voice for the first time in a long time. To see these students feel more confident and empowered to advocate for themselves was an incredible feeling.
[Image description: Avery in front of Seattle Center fountain]
People who work in the election cycle often talk about how draining GOTV season is – and with good reason. It’s hard to be face-to-face (or on the phone) with someone who simply doesn’t want to talk to you attempting to convince them that their vote really matters. And what do you say to really engage a classroom full of 17- and 18-year-olds who may not even realize there’s an election just around the corner? I think everyone who works for a campaign or volunteers at a GOTV event eventually figures out a message – or even just an opening line – that works for them, and that feels true and genuine. There were a few conversations with voters that really stuck out to me. One voter I talked to while doorknocking in South King County thanked me and my canvassing partner profusely for the work we were doing and told us that his daughter – who was the person we’d been attempting to reach – had moved to Texas but was canvassing for Beto O’Rourke. Unsurprisingly, we left that house feeling energized! But it often still feels like a big challenge to educate and inform the public. However, the fact that it’s challenging is the very reason that our work through the Bus is so urgent – because so often it’s a sign that the people we’re talking to aren’t used to being reached out to. A new voter in South King County may not feel that voting is important to them because no one has ever bothered to ask for their vote – and that’s where the Bus steps in. Our message is simple: their vote matters.
[Image description: Maya smiling at camera]