I first met Maura when she was fifteen. Employees at the industrial laundry where her mother worked—and still works—wanted a stronger voice on the job. Maura went with her mother to visit coworkers in their homes, hear their stories, and show support for their efforts to form a union and make their jobs better. “I just told the people we visited that I believe in what she believes in. We talked about people’s rights and I learned a lot.”
In 2010, I asked for Maura's help on an initiative to sign up thousands of voters to vote by mail. Early voting by mail was still relatively new in Arizona, but we wanted to use it to increase voter participation and power among Latino working people.
No one knew what to expect in a mid-year election where overall voter participation in most other states dropped. Because of Maura’s energy, we were able to increase Latino voter participation dramatically. Remembering that time, Maura “realized that voting does make a difference in something that concerned me and my family.”
With a taste for victory, Maura joined another campaign in 2011 focused on increasing Latino voter participation in an area where Latinos are underrepresented and have a low propensity to vote. Her efforts were part of a historic citywide increase in voter participation among Latinos of over 300%.
As she has grown in her leadership and involvement, Maura has continued to demonstrate responsibility and set a strong example in her family and her community. This year, Maura has already increased the success of Latino civic engagement in Phoenix by regularly bringing twenty volunteers with her to register new voters. Maura has also been an active union member with UNITE HERE Local 631 as a cashier at Sky Harbor Airport, where she worked to help her family and to put herself through college.
Maura’s commitment to electoral participation is even more inspiring because she can't vote. But while she is in the process of getting her U.S. citizenship, she uses her personal story to motivate voters to participate.
“Before, people would push me down and say that I wasn’t going to do anything with my life. Now, I’m more outgoing, interested, and paying attention to things in the community I never noticed before. I am more positive about my life.”