This week’s blog comes from Evelyn Pedraza Fernandez, who covers the important work of SF-based PODER (People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights) to do Census 2020 outreach to underserved and underrepresented populations in San Francisco. Evelyn is the recipient of Campus Compact’s Newman Scholar Award, and an Esther-Madriz Diversity Scholar, and former Community Empowerment Activist (CEA).
This year I have had the amazing opportunity working as a Community Empowered Activist, CEA, alongside People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights, PODER. The organization has stood in solidarity with low-income Latinx immigrant families in various San Francisco neighborhoods. PODER alongside the community has created solutions, programs, opposites, focused on immigrant rights, environmental justice, racial, and economic rights. Every day at PODER I have a new exciting task that varies from community outreach, obtaining information on neighborhood trends, and assisting and planning with the staff in the community.
This year was an especially important one because of the 2020 Census. The census is a count of everyone living in the United States, which includes 50 states, 5 territories, and DC. This can greatly impact a community because the number of people that respond will determine how and where funds are allocated towards and the number of state representatives. PODER and I have been preparing for the census since last year with extensive training and collaborating on different outreach methods.
PODER wanted me to focus on counting an underrepresented population, college students. Students are difficult to count because of our living situation and confusion on the census. The census is one per household not per person. This information confuses people living with many different roommates. Many students live in the dorms which are accounted for by Student Housing and Residential Education, SHaRE. As well as the last time we were included was when we were still children most likely under 10 years old. Students are confused about how to complete as this time the census is primarily online for the first time instead of through mail or telephone which is still an option.
PODER and I discussed techniques to create outreach to USF students. I began by collecting a census card which had the student pledged they were going to complete the census. I collected these cards from friends, residents, and fellow staff members. I worked alongside the McCarthy center to present information on the upcoming census to continue to spread information on the importance. These actions may seem small and unimportant but I believe in small steps. Simple actions such as reposting on social media or reminding one of completing the census will ensure everyone is counted. As my internship is coming to an end I am grateful and pleased I was able to intern at an organization that allowed me to focus on demographics and trusted me to make a change. All of the lessons I have learned is due to the amazing coworkers I was able to learn and interact from.
Check out Evelyn, PODER and other amazing McCarthy Award winners and granteers on the USF website in the link here!
And if you haven’t already, make sure to fill out the Census!