National Council of La Raza encourages Latino youth to vote when they turn 18

Janet Hernandez, left, discusses the High School Democracy Project and Latinos Vote app at the National Council of La Raza conference in Phoenix. (Photo by Holly Bernstein)

Ricardo J. Tello learned about different canidates, political issues and more from the High School Democracy Program at his school in Austin,Texas. (Photo by Holly Berstein/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – The National Council of La Raza is launching a school-based program and new technology to increase voting and political engagement among Latino youths.

La Raza leaders will ask Arizona school administrators this fall to join the High School Democracy Project to help increase voter registration of Latino millennials. Sixteen states have implemented the project’s curriculum in schools, according to Janet Hernandez, senior civic engagement project manager for La Raza.

The six-lesson curriculum includes mock elections and lessons on becoming politically active and engaged. Hernandez outlined the program at La Raza’s convention in Phoenix.

About 1 million Latino teens turn 18 years old every year, Hernandez said the census shows.

“It is more than voting. It’s about democracy and how we impact youth in general,” Hernandez said.

La Raza is working with mitú, a digital network aimed at Latinos, to launch Latinos Vote, a voter registration website and mobile app that simplifies voter registration. The app was offered at the convention and about 200 people registered, according to Hernandez.

Ricardo J. Tello, a student at Houston Gateway Academy, spoke of being the first of his family to vote. He had learned about voter registration, elections and candidates from the project.

“It was a surprise that I was one of the very few Latinos in my community to actually vote,” Tello said of voting in the 2016 election.

Tello said he was proud to represent his family.

“It is scary at first,” Tello said. “Everything is scary at first. But surprisingly it’s just easy. Super easy.”

The national La Raza convention covers issues such as politics, health care, education and leadership. It ends Tuesday.