Middle Tennessee State University’s Kayla Jenkins, a student in the Public History Master’s Program, was recently named to the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge’s 2023 Student Voting Honor Roll.
ALL IN is a nonprofit that works with higher education institutions and students across the country to empower them to achieve excellence in nonpartisan student democratic engagement, according to its website.
The organization believes that a strong, vibrant and more representative American democracy will result from the greater inclusion of informed college student voters.
“I feel that student participation in the civic process is crucially important for a healthy democracy,” said Jenkins, a Kingsport, Tennessee, native, who’s also a member of the campus American Democracy Project chapter.
“We want voters to be educated about the issues that matter to them, and from my own experiences talking to students on MTSU’s campus, I know they are passionate and interested in what’s going on in their communities.”
Along with Jenkins, 174 other students nationwide made ALL IN’s honor roll for going “above and beyond to advance nonpartisan student voter registration, education, and turnout efforts in their communities,” according to the group’s press release.
Dr. Mary Evins, a professor in the Department of History and coordinator of MTSU’s American Democracy Project chapter, led the voter registration mobilization last fall.
The team included ADP students, MTSU Student Government Association members, community volunteers from the American Association of University Women, the League of Women Voters of Murfreesboro/Rutherford County and others to help register students to vote.
“Young Americans are our nation’s future,” Evins said. “MTSU students are state leaders in voting and civic engagement, and Kayla represents them.
“Every single one of our students must be registered and must vote, and it’s not too soon to have a voting plan in place for the 2024 elections! Please get registered now at mtsu.edu/vote.”
The precise number of MTSU students who registered and voted will be released this summer in MTSU’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement report published by the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education, Evins said.
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett also recognized MTSU’s efforts, earning the university a second win in the four-year public university category of Hargett’s statewide College Voter Registration Competition.
Jenkins, an integral part of the effort, spent almost every morning from last August through October setting up a voter registration tent on campus to get her fellow Blue Raiders registered and ready with a voting plan.
Jenkins said MTSU has supported her journey to becoming an informed college student voter, teaching her critical thinking skills that help her make informed choices when she goes to the ballot box.
“I believe it’s my responsibility to help my friends and the people in my community have access to civic education as well, so I’m doing what I can to help them feel confident when casting their vote,” she said. “It’s cool to care about your community.
“It’s awesome to be selected for the honor roll! I’m proud to be representing MTSU.”
Jenkins plans to take her commitment to active citizenship with her into the real world after her graduation this August.
“I plan to get involved in my community, wherever I end up,” she said. “And with my degree specialization in museum management, I want to create equitable spaces for public education outside the classroom. I believe museums and historic sites are cultural assets that should serve the needs of their communities.”
To learn more about getting involved in campus voter registration efforts, visit the American Democracy Project campus chapter website at www.mtsu.edu/amerdem.
— Stephanie Wagner (Stephanie.Wagner@mtsu.edu)
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