Photography and Slide Show by AURORA SALDIVAR/Coachella Unincorporated
An Unforgettable Election
By JOHNNY FLORES, JR/Coachella Unincorporated
Coachella, Calif. — Another election has come and gone, but this year’s election was more important to me than ever.
Over the course of the last two and half months, I have interned at the office of Dr. Raul Ruiz for Congress. Now you may be wondering, “Why is a 15 year-old who cannot even vote working for a campaign in the adult world of politics?”
My answer is simply I believe in Ruiz and everything he stands for. He is an inspiration for all Latino youth in the Eastern Coachella Valley.
In March, Ruiz visited my high school on a Sunday afternoon to meet with first-generation college students. I was invited to attend by a teacher whom I will never forget, Leticia Sendejo. Much to my surprise, this talk was not about the importance of college for children whose parents never completed or attended college. Instead, Ruiz inspired students to do more, to chase our dreams, and to find our passion. After that day, I felt a friendship emerging with Dr. Ruiz.
Fast forward to September, election season well underway. While meeting with my Coachella Unincorporated group, we were greeted by a member of Ruiz’s campaign. I was moved to volunteer, and quickly that turned into an internship.
Interning was very surreal to me. Although I could not vote, I could file papers, input data, make phone calls, and pass out fliers. Helping my community to have a voice in congress meant the world to me. I felt as invested in the campaign as someone who could vote might.
On election night, I paid attention to the 36th Congressional District race more than the presidential race. After tireless hours of working in different offices and attending rallies, it all boiled down to voter turnout.
John Rodriguez, who offered me the internship, has become a great friend and mentor. He once told me, “It’s not about you, me, or the doctor, but us. To prove what we are capable of, what team work can accomplish.”
After 14 years in congress, Mary Bono Mack conceded the race to Ruiz on Friday night. The son of farm workers, a Harvard graduate from my hometown, will now represent us in Congress. The combined efforts of his campaign and the entire Coachella Valley have paid off. Dr. Ruiz has shown the voters that anything is possible through hard work and determination.
Election season is now over. Posters are down, offices cleaned up, and new elected officials are preparing to take office. The campaign may be over, but it is still very much alive in my heart.
I have learned the importance of voting and how local politics can be as important as those on a national level, all the while making new friends along the way. I have learned what teamwork can accomplish and how together we can change the community for the better.