“Find your passion, and get involved.”
My name is Ciera Pennington. I’m 22 years old, and have been involved in Our Children, Our Future for a little over a year.
I got my start with one of the Our Children, Our Future partners, WV FREE, as an unpaid intern during my junior year of college. By my senior year, I was working full-time as a field organizer.
My passion is for getting people involved in the democracy that governs them, and in being an active part of their community. I got to see first-hand how knocking on doors can turn voters out to the polls, how organizing as a community can change the minds of our elected officials, and how people want to be involved and make a difference, but don’t always know how.
After leaving WV FREE, I accepted a job in Virginia. In just two short months, I returned to West Virginia. Virginia was great – I didn’t have to dodge potholes that could eat my car. But it wasn’t West Virginia.
It wasn’t organizing my community. It wasn’t making the place and lives of people I love any better, all of which this coalition and each partner organization has been proven to do.
So my purpose today is to urge all of the young individuals in this room to start getting involved now.
Find your passion – whether it be knocking on doors and getting people to vote or organizing events to make citizens aware of environmental issues. There is so much good you can do for the community you care about, even as a teen or young adult. Reach out to the people in this room today; I can personally attest to how much they want you to come get involved and to how much they will invest in you.
It’s so important that we seize these opportunities to get involved. Often, our voices get lost because millennials and generation z’ers can be complacent – we feel like we are too young to do anything, like nobody will listen, or that nothing we do will help anyway.
But that’s simply not true. We come with new, fresh ideas that others want and that will help make a difference.
And not only a difference to others, but a difference to ourselves. Being passionate about something, learning new things, meeting new people – all of that helps you grow and learn more about yourself and who you want to be. I would not be who I am today without the people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had during my time as an intern, organizer and mentor for various organizations and people.
So, go get involved! Go register to vote, and turn-out to vote! There are not enough young people voting, which is sad because that’s where we have a lot of power for change. You may have only one vote, but that vote means a lot. (Trust me – I know this because I worked for a guy who won by a mere 9 votes!)
Anyway, thank you all for the hard work you do! I’m constantly inspired and motivated by each of you, and I hope that some of you will be motivated by my story and begin getting involved.