“HerStory” is a monthly column for and about women. Call Patra Kelly for more information about appropriate subjects, length of articles, how to submit, deadlines, or to talk about your ideas. 520-604-8119

I don’t know about you, but I am pretty bummed by the divisiveness in our country and the escalating inhumanity in how we think and talk about one another. The lack of civil discourse has laid bare for all to see the inequality, discrimination, and injustice that remains within our nation. To avoid sinking into the abyss, I spent some time this fall working to get out the vote for the midterm elections. My modest efforts connected me up with several impressive grassroots organizations in Washington and Arizona and some amazing young people. One of those people, Elvira Din, was particularly inspirational. She has helped restore some of my faith in the possibilities of our democracy and in the commitment of young people to get involved and make a difference. I want to tell you about her.

Elvira comes from the Imperial Valley of central California. She is the youngest of three girls and was raised primarily by her mother who supported the family by working as a cleaner of commercial buildings. As a teenager, Elvira was a primary support for her mother who she called “a hard worker who had significant health problems and found it difficult to access the health care she needed.”

Elvira attended Yuma Community College and then transferred to UC San Diego to complete her bachelor’s degree. She was assisted there by the federal TRIO program, which supports first-generation low-income college students, like Elvira. She studied social work at Yuma and then focused on public policy at UCSD because, she said, “that seemed the best way to impact a lot of people suffering from injustices in this country.”

After graduating, Elvira moved to Tucson and went to work for LUCHA (Living United for Change in Arizona), an organization focused on social, economic, and racial justice for Arizona’s working families. She wanted to work in Arizona because her two sisters, now living in Yuma with their families, were experiencing the same problems that her mother had faced.

At 24, Elvira is now one of the leaders of the Tucson office of LUCHA. “As a Latina woman with a strong commitment to securing access to healthcare, just immigration policies, living wage jobs for Arizonans, LUCHA is a good fit for me,” she said. “They have offered the tools and training necessary for me to become a leader.” She is especially proud that young Latina women are in leadership roles throughout the statewide organization.

Elvira believes the most important victory of the midterm elections was the number of people empowered to vote for the first time. In Arizona there were 3,716,161 people registered to vote in 2018, the largest number ever, more than double that of the last midterm election year. The youngest voting demographic, those aged 18 to 24, led all other age groups in new voters registered (data from AZ Sect. of State Office). LUCHA’s Tucson office registered 5000 new voters in Pima County. I was one of the canvassers and I can attest that Elvira had a gift for training and inspiring her large cadre of volunteers, including many young people who were engaged in political action for the first time.

When I asked her what she would say to those who felt disheartened, angry or disengaged by our political process, Elvira said “everyone feels this way sometimes, but remember we all have the power to effect change, especially if we join with others, so use your power and
get to work.”

Elvira reminds me of the young people in our own community who are “using their power and getting to work” to make the changes they want to see happen. Take a minute to think about those you know and feel grateful for how they enrich our community.