Maura’s story: Changing Arizona

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Maura Rodriguez stands up for voting rightsCross-posted from the Partnership for Working Families blog

We at CASE (Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy) are proud to reflect on this year as a turning point in our growth as an organization. Starting from our base in the labor movement, we have trained young service workers to lead the fight for working people to have a voice in their government. It is these leaders that embody the work CASE has accomplished.

While still in high school, Maura Rodriguez learned about CASE through her mom’s union and started volunteering with us on civic engagement campaigns. She was on the ground in the first efforts to increase early voting by mail among Latinos. A service worker since she started working, Maura, now 21, also helped lead CASE’s efforts to improve jobs at Sky Harbor Airport, where she had been a cashier for nearly two years.

This summer, Maura was recognized for efforts to strengthen her community by engaging fellow service workers as voters. Maura won an inaugural Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors against Poverty Leadership Award from the Marguerite Casey Foundation, one of only twelve award recipients nationally. She used the $5,000 grant to fulfill a few long-held dreams, like fixing her car, paying for the next semester of community college, and completing her U.S. citizenship application.

Then, early in the fall, Maura changed course. She left Arizona’s service industry and joined the staff of a local electoral campaign. As an organizer, she helped recruit and train dozens more new, young leaders to register and turn out Latino voters. That campaign also led the local and national focus on accountability for Election Day problems in Arizona.

Maura’s volunteer leaders were all high school students—at the same age when she first joined the movement for a better life in Arizona. The cycle of leadership is beginning again as this “New Arizona” continues the fight for electoral reform and quality jobs policies with CASE.