Cecilia Silva: Bringing resources home
Cecilia Silva is a native Texan, born in Humble and raised in the suburbs of Spring. Her upbringing contributed greatly to how she now navigates Texas politics. She currently works as an office administrator with the League of Women Voters of Dallas and is the Dallas Program Manager for ReflectUS. Until the age of five, Cecilia lived in her grandparent’s living room before her family moved to their own studio apartment. When her family later moved to a two story home where Cecilia and each of her sisters had their own rooms, she was upgraded from a corner in a studio apartment to a princess canopy bed. New schools and teachers in a new environment brought unexpected challenges to light. Many teachers assumed she didn’t speak English and she needed to take ELA classes; this was the first time she felt like a minority.
In middle school, Cecilia joined speech and debate which was her first exposure to politics. A middle school debate over tax increases explained school funding and made it clear why the inequalities in education that she had seen existed. Cecilia continued to participate in speech and debate through high school and credits her coach Angie Richard as her first role model because of her support and encouragement. At one point in high school, Cecilia transferred schools where her coach encouraged her to continue debating, emphasizing her potential. Angie actually chose Cecilia to attend a speech and debate competition at Harvard. The school covered some costs, but Cecilia and her mom fundraised the rest by reaching out to her community.
While speech and debate were her first exposures to politics, the 2016 Women’s March is what really got Cecilia fired up. She volunteered with Annie’s List and never anticipated being more than a volunteer for campaigns. Without knowing what IGNITE was, she attended a local event with the organization before calling their program manager Whitney Thomas to ask about volunteering. Whitney asked her about running for office. Cecilia announced her plans to run for city council and ran for Student Body Vice President at the University of Texas at Arlington. She didn’t win this election but was elected Speaker of the Senate. Her proudest accomplishment so far has been her time as Speaker of the Senate at UT Arlington, where she was able to represent the interests of the student body. Before winning this election, she had written a few pieces of legislation as a student Senator for the College of Liberal Arts that would help women on campus, most prominently the bill “I am Woman, Give Me Options” which originally was intended to provide feminine hygiene product dispensers in campus restrooms. At the start of her term as Speaker of the Senate, the bill was still being researched but by the time it passed, it had been amended to not only provide tampons and pads in the restrooms, but to make them free.
Cecilia’s current work with the League of Women Voters encourages civic engagement during the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Beyond voter registration drives, the League sends out nonpartisan voter guides and works to get elected officials in front of their communities. At ReflectUS, Cecilia and her team provide resources to women running for office in Texas without requiring them to pay to fly out to cities like Washington D.C. or Boston. They are currently working on a twelve part series to help women run for office and win. Cecilia encourages women who are interested in running for office or working in politics to build a support group and network and get involved as soon as they can. She received tremendous support from her sorority- Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, Inc- and the women she met through IGNITE. Through these organizations she became friends with so many women and navigated the industry around familiar faces, “I attribute everything [I have] today to IGNITE.” Her biggest piece of advice to women wanting to get into politics is to reach out to organizations and campaigns and start volunteering, even if it’s just a couple hours a week. Volunteers are essential to the groups and staff are likely to help you get your foot in the door for career opportunities and recommend you to other organizations for work. The friendships Cecilia built in the work she did in college enabled her to grow her career.. The women she met at IGNITE are some of her closest friends, and they have moved up from event attendees to speakers and organizers together.
She is excited to continue doing the work to achieve parity in Texas politics across all spectrums and bring resources to women in her community. Cecilia knows that it is through connections and community support that positive change can happen.