Priscilla Yeverino: Inspiring change in Texas
As a cofounder of the Sunrise movement, the speaker to introduce Senator Sanders during his first and final rallies of his presidential campaign race, as well as a full-time student, Priscilla Yeverino has created quite the political and social ripple of change in Texas through her hard work and dedication.
Having grown up in Irving, Texas, a city consisting of a large population of working-class minority communities, Priscilla Yeverino gained a direct understanding of the inequality present within both her own life, as well as within the lives of Texans around her. Yeverino noted that Irving’s zip code-75038-was the most diverse zip code in the U.S. when she was growing up. Yeverino came to understand as a child the substantial extent to which the lives of Americans, and especially working-class minority Americans, are politicized, even as children within the school system.
Yeverino recalled discussing the Bush election as a child in elementary school, stating “It didn’t strike me till later the extent to which Texas tries to politicize everything in schools-especially public schools. Our lives have constantly been politicized all the time-we are constantly being affected by the minimum wage, and unequal housing and employment opportunities.” As such, income and social inequality were issues Yeverino saw around her neighborhood, in Texas, and subsequently, across the county as a child, although it wasn’t until later that she learned through her university education “the necessary tools we use to describe our political environment, and how to try and organize to subsequently produce change.”
Yeverino originally didn’t plan to be involved in politics and social change as extensively as she is now, entering college pursuing a degree and career in Public Relations. However, she decided after President Donald Trump won the 2016 election that enough was enough, and that she couldn’t afford to say no to any opportunities allowing her to fight for social justice that might come her way. Shortly thereafter, Yeverino got involved with the nonpartisan program IGNITE, which seeks to empower girls and women to take political leadership roles and advocate for the issues they care about. It was through this program that Yeverino met the first congressional candidate she ended up working for, found resources regarding advocating for the significance of the issue of climate change, and met other young women with whom she block-walked for Bernie Sanders during his campaign.
Yeverino described her first political role model with Senator Sanders, who she would later introduce twice in Dallas, TX. Yeverino began to look up to Sanders in 2015, after a roommate in college asked if she had heard of Senator Sanders following learning about Yeverino’s support for Secretary Clinton. Introducing Sanders and meeting him allowed Yeverino to actively witness the beginning and end of his campaign, while also allowing her the opportunity to see Sanders’ presidential campaign through the eyes of Texas. Yeverino explained that what truly inspired her to desire to run for office herself one day was when she witnessed a young woman of color who was the daughter of a domestic worker become elected into a political position. Yeverino noted, “I believe it was so important to see the daughter of an immigrant in a place of power and as a community organizer. It is important and necessary for daughters to see themselves in places of power.”
Yeverino later balanced being a full-time graduate student with working full time, whilst simultaneously continuing to be involved in her community. She describes having to majorly cut down on her social time in order to be efficient with her time and prioritize her family and education amidst political organizing and advocacy work. Yeverino remarked that the quarantine and social distancing imposed by COVID19 was beneficial in that it finally allowed her time to catch up on work and take care of herself. It is a tragic marker of American society that it has taken a global pandemic for some to not be so overworked.
Yeverino further noted that there is immense power in social media as a tool to be used for the purposes of political organizing and advocacy work. Whether the medium be TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook, there are major organizing opportunities available through that space. Although the “real” work regarding organizing occurs offline, Yeverino explained that social media has been a great tool through which to connect with people and engage them on a more direct level to encourage them to get involved, saying “ I owe a lot to social media because I owe a lot to people on social media, and how they have come together with others who are willing to organize their friends and those around them to work towards improving their environments.”
Currently, Yeverino works as an organizer for the Sunrise movement in Dallas, wherein she fights for the Green New Deal and seeks to make the climate crisis a top priority for anyone in politics. Yeverino currently works to build coalitions with other organizations, lead the electoral team, and use her knowledge in organizing and political advocacy work to make connections and engage the public in the concerning issue of climate change. As Yeverino completes her final semester of her Public Administration Master’s degree, she hopes to go back to Irving soon, continue her leadership roles within the Sunrise Movement, and ultimately continue fighting for change and equality in Texas.
Yeverino closed with the following advice to young women interested in pursuing a career and future within politics and advocacy work, “Always remember to be an organizer before a politician. I think a lot of us make mistakes through wanting to do good, and unintentionally end up gaining a savior complex. I think it is important to unlearn as much as we learn, not only in terms of information, but also in regard to the harmful behaviors we continue to engage in.”