Deepening Democracy, Here and Now

Jess DewesAdvocacy and Policy, Democracy, Internships/Fellowships, News

Kayla Sullivan, Karina Arango, and Asia Parson

In May 2022, The Scholarship Foundation announced a new voter engagement internship
with Action St. Louis, a grassroots racial justice organization that seeks to build political

power for Black communities in the St. Louis region. Action St. Louis manages campaigns

that leverage organizing, communications, advocacy, and direct action to mitigate harm

against the community with its focus on electoral justice work.

In June 2022, the voter engagement internship launched with its first two interns, Kayla Sullivan and Asia Parson. Kayla, a second-year doctoral candidate at Washington University, earned her bachelor’s degree from DePauw University in 2022. Asia is a recent graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Washington University. With the support and guidance of  Scholarship Foundation Director of Advocacy Karina Arango, Kayla and Asia participated in BOSS (Black Organizing Summer School), a program of Action St. Louis designed to train community organizers.

The internship experience was two-fold: research to understand voter engagement patterns as well as hands-on, direct training to identify with and activate the St. Louis community of potential voters. Applying their training from Action St. Louis, they engaged and informed voters on local issues, equipping them with the information needed to cast their vote in the upcoming elections. Both interns were provided essential training on the necessity of remaining non-partisan in their non-profit activities.

Born and raised in St. Louis, Asia always hoped to strengthen her ties to the community that raised her.“Before joining the internship, I had no experience in organizing work, but I always had an interest in solving problems and making an impact on my community.” Asia’s efforts were front and center working to get voters to the polls for the August primaries. When the day arrived, she saw firsthand the opportunity and need to engage voters.

Interns opened up about what it takes to be in community organizing work. “It requires flexibility,” Kayla shared. For example, when the July floods devastated the homes and businesses of several St. Louis residents, Action St. Louis switched gears and jumped in to support immediate community needs. Kayla and Asia also spoke with hundreds of tenants across the city where their communication and coordination were crucial in scheduling renters’ rights meetings. Together, Kayla and Asia also developed a non-partisan voter guide with the goal of collaborating with other Foundation Policy Fellows to publish and distribute it to student advocates and voters in the St. Louis region. Their hope is that the guide will encourage informed voting on matters affecting students like themselves.

From what started as a conversation between former Scholarship Foundation board member Dana Romeis, Foundation donor Robert (Bob) Brunk, and The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis Executive Director Faith Sandler regarding threats to our democracy following January 6, 2021, an action for meaningful voter education and participation among young people has emerged in the form of this internship opportunity. The dream is that young people and organizations are inspired to collaborate and mobilize to ensure the well-being of our democracy.

To read more features from Opening Doors – Fall 2022, CLICK HERE.