Joseline Mata is a political science major here at the University of Arizona, as well as the youngest member of the executive board for the Democratic Party. She represents the College Democrats of America on the board after being elected president in Las Vegas this October at their national convention.
Daily Wildcat reporter Randall Eck interviewed Mata. They discussed her road to office, her goals for the next year, and the role of youth in politics. Their interview was edited for clarity.
Daily Wildcat: How did you get involved in politics and the Democratic Party?
Joseline Mata: The second semester of my freshman year, I was elected president of the UA Young Democrats. Through that, I started getting more involved in state politics and began interning for the Pima County Democratic Party and getting involved in my local legislative district. I served as chapter president for three semesters until I was elected president of our state organization. Prior to being elected national president of the College Democrats of America, I also served as their national development director.
DW: What is the role of College Democrats within the Democratic Party?
JM: Our main focus is youth engagement across college campuses. Not just universities, but also community colleges. College students are always a hard target because they are such a transient community. Yet, we have been successful in various states and are working to unite our methodologies and focus on making engagement a larger part of our program.
DW: What do you hope to accomplish as President of the College Democrats of America?
JM: There are two main focuses I want to bring to the Democratic National Committee’s attention. First, the DNC has unpaid internships. To say that we are the party of labor, the party of the people and to not be paying our interns, not even a small stipend, is an embarrassment to me. Second, I want to point out the fact that currently the High School Democrats of America are one of our biggest organizing organizations, and they do not have a seat at the table in the DNC. The High School Democrats are how I started out my activism and I helped start my chapter back in my senior year of high school. To me it's an embarrassment.
DW: Is it normal for the President of the College of Democrats to be from a red state?
JM: My vice president Calvin Wilborn is out of Auburn University. So, we are two red states, which is a huge shift. To me this makes sense; we have been treading water for a very long time in not very pro-democrat states and have managed not to sink. It is that kind of change in leadership we need right now to push us forward.
DW: What is the role of young people in politics and the Democratic Party?
JM: I hate when people say “you are the future of the party” because we are not. The reality is that the boots on the ground, the people knocking on the doors, often times are youth. We are the people who are the makeup of campaign staff, of policy staff. That is the reality. By 2022, we will overcome baby boomers as the largest voting block in the US. We have an important role to play. I do not think people realize, right now, the power of our voice and our vote. It is hard when we are struggling with college tuition costs and having to work multiple jobs but I think the role of young people right now is to remind each other that our voice matters.
DW: What do you say to students who want to get involved in politics?
JM: I think that being so far from DC it is so easy for students to think that there is not really a place for us in politics. That is really just not the case. We really do need to start pushing more youth, especially our age, to get involved. I am one of the youngest elected party officials in the entire country as a vice-chair of the state party, and I am not alone. You just have to put yourself out there and into these positions. Until you do, there will not be much of a change.
DW: What are your plans for after graduation, perhaps a run for political office yourself?
JM: I am planning on staying in Arizona through the next election cycle, continuing my work with both our state party and a congressional race. After that, I need a vacation. I haven't taken one since 2012. I see myself continuing my work within the party structure not running for political office. Truly, the work I find the most empowering and worthwhile is finding those people who have never thought about themselves in leadership positions and encouraging them to run. I want to build other people up and send them off on their journeys.
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