A cursory glance at photos of political candidates in most parts of the country will likely reveal few women and minority candidates.
Grand Island and Hall County are no exception, but the YWCA of Grand Island wants to play a part in changing that with , a workshop for people who want to learn more about becoming and running for a job. Politics.
Danielle Helzer, Mission Impact Director for the YWCA of Grand Island, takes the lead on the project. She said that when comparing the demographics of the region to those of those elected, a disparity is apparent.
“The latest census estimates that people of color make up 39% of Grand Island’s population. We don’t have that kind of representation on our city council, school boards, county commissioners, and so on. said Helzer. “At the state level, only 13 of 49 state senators are women and even fewer are people of color.”
Helzer said YWeRun’s goal is to demystify and make the application process accessible – in a non-partisan setting. “We know applying for a job can seem like a daunting task, and it’s not a process the public is familiar with. We wanted to…give people the resources and tools to learn about the processes. It’s not as complicated as it may seem. One of our trainings will be an information session on all the local offices, what they need, how to file and the skills needed for these positions. »
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As the filing deadline has passed for the upcoming elections, registration is open for those who are candidates or are curious about becoming candidates. The first session is March 19 and registration continues until Wednesday. There are fees, but no one will be turned away due to inability to pay.
Since YWeRun is new to YWCA Grand Island (there is a similar YWCA Utah project focused on female candidates), Helzer said high turnout isn’t expected, but that doesn’t mean expectations to empower participants to stand for election are less important. .
“We know it takes time to build momentum in new programs, so we expect fewer participants to start – however, we may be surprised!” Helzer said. “There is a lot of momentum right now among people running for office. Our goal is for 25% of our participants to indicate that they are ready to stand for election in 2024.”
There is a minimum number of participants needed for each session, Helzer said. “Participants can register for all sessions or for individual sessions. We do not have a maximum number of participants.
Helzer stressed the importance of having diverse candidates and, eventually, elected officials.
“Since our local leaders are responsible for representing our diverse communities, we need to have diversity among our leaders so that everyone in our community is represented,” she said. “Our elected officials are responsible for representing their communities; our communities and our state are becoming more diverse, and our elected officials do not always represent this diversity.
Jessica Votipka is an education reporter at the Grand Island Independent. She can be reached at 308-381-5420.