As a Hispanic-Serving Institution, we’re spotlighting A&M-San Antonio students who have worked hard, overcome challenges, and are now successfully chasing their dreams. This is the final of five student spotlights.
By: David DeKunder
When she turned 18 years old, Denique Escobedo was excited about casting her ballot in the 2016 presidential election—the first-ever election she would be voting in.
But when Escobedo arrived at the polls, she found out that she was not eligible. Despite registering to vote in Texas the year before at a Department of Public Safety Driver’s License Office, her voter application hadn’t been processed correctly.
“That experience, when somebody tells you, ‘Oh, you can’t vote,’ is almost like a stab in the heart, it feels like,” Escobedo said. “You don’t realize the importance of voting until the right to vote gets taken away from you.”
Escobedo, a 26-year-old accounting major, said that early experience inspired her to become an advocate for voting rights and getting students on campus engaged in the democratic process. She has served as a Democracy Fellow through the Campus Vote Project and as the democracy engagement coordinator for the Mays Center for Experiential Learning and Community Engagement, a position she held from 2021-22.
The Campus Vote Project is a program of the Washington, DC-based Fair Elections Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on voting rights and election reform. The goal of the program is to work with election officials along with college and university students and faculty members to reduce barriers to student voting.
Being a voting rights advocate has enabled Escobedo to connect with other students on the importance of voting. She has set up tables in the Central Academic Building and other locations around campus, helping students register to vote, making them aware of upcoming elections, and even creating a video on how undocumented students’ voices are still heard even though they aren’t eligible to vote.
“I had booths almost all the time, rain or shine,” said Escobedo, adding that this approach has been a great way to spark word-of-mouth around campus among students about the importance of voting.
Escobedo was also instrumental in designating A&M-San Antonio as a Voter Friendly Campus through the Campus Vote Project after a Bexar County polling site was set up at the University for the 2020 election. This gave students on campus a convenient location to cast their ballots.
In 2021, she presented a poster exhibit on voting rights titled “New Voters, Young Voters, Minorities Oh, My!: Engaging Students through a Hyper-Local Democracy Coalition,” during the Gulf-South Summit conference for Service Learning and Civic Engagement. Escobedo said the poster showed how the Mays Center was able to get the diverse A&M-San Antonio student body involved in voting and elections and how community partners helped in that process.
Escobedo is bi-racial, as her father, Ramon, is the son of Mexican immigrants and her mother, Dezanna Russell, is black. She said her parents are the ones who encouraged her to vote and have inspired her to fight for voting rights and accessibility for underserved groups.
She served as a senator in the Student Government Association, chairing the Spirits and Tradition Committee. Escobedo is also treasurer of the Yoga Mind Club and is a member of the Texas CPA organization and an organizer for the Feminist Advocacy and Empowerment group.
Escobedo will graduate in December. After graduation, she will stay at A&M-San Antonio to pursue her master’s in public accounting. Her plans include obtaining her CPA license and working as an accountant in either the entertainment field or for a nonprofit democracy advocacy group.
“Working for a nonprofit in the accounting department would be amazing,” Escobedo said. “The future is wide open for me. I’m taking it one step at a time.”
Expected Graduation: December 2023