News - Civic Engagement Panel Features Immigrants in Elected Office

On Wednesday, October 31st, the Sonia Gutierrez Campus hosted a panel discussion on civic leadership and civil rights. The panelists were Celina Benitez, council member in Mount Rainier, Maryland, originally from El Salvador, and Elizabeth Guzman, a Peruvian-American politician elected to represent Virginia’s 31st district in the House of Delegates. In November 2017, Guzman became the first Hispanic woman elected to the House.

The speakers touched on how students can get civically engaged and be part of the political process. Benitez and Guzman decided to run because they wanted to make sure their voices were heard. “I ran to offer a voice to many voiceless people who do not understand how legislation can impact their lives,” Guzman said.

Both panelists shared their own civic engagement experiences and invited participants to be changemakers. “Don’t underestimate the power of your voice,” Benitez said.

A few days before the midterm elections, the panelists reminded the students just how important voting is. Benitez and Guzman invited them to reach out to their city council members to know where they are on issues like immigration and civil rights. “It is up to you to impose your agenda to the candidates,” Benitez said.

After the panel, student government representatives asked panelists questions about their immigration stories in the U.S. and challenges they are facing in their jobs as legislators.