Catch up with the young activist featured in “Find Your Fire”
If you’ve read my book “Find Your Fire: Stories and Strategies to Inspire the Changemaker Inside You,” I know that you remember Claudia Yoli Ferla. In her chapter, Claudia talked about her work as an activist and how her mother taught her the importance of helping others and building a community. She also shared what it was like to come out twice: first as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and then as an undocumented immigrant
“I’m in this because I’m highly passionate about what I do, and I believe in the power of young people and what we can build together and collectively,” Claudia said in “Find Your Fire.”
That passion has now led Claudia to a new role as executive director of Move Texas. It was only appropriate that I had a chance this Pride month to catch up with Claudia and learn about how her organization is empowering young people. I’m excited to share our conversation (edited slightly for length and clarity) with you today.
You have a new job since I interviewed you for “Find Your Fire” — congratulations! I would love to hear more about your role at Move Texas and what the organization does.
Move Texas works to build the political power of young people in our state. I’ve been with the organization for a little over two years. We started in 2013 at the University of Texas in San Antonio and have become a statewide organization serving young people.
We build power in three different ways. The first one is civic engagement. We conduct voter registration, education, and turnout work at scale.
We also build power through issue advocacy. We have two significant programs under that arm. One is called Democracy from the Ground Up, which is how we’ve supported implementing pro-voter policies at the local level in different communities in our state. We are also an organization that throws it down on climate change. We did some really exciting work in the lead-up to the 2022 elections around connecting the issue of climate to voting, and connecting access to democracy to also having access to information around climate.
The third way we build power and impact change — which is my personal favorite — is leadership development. We run two leadership development programs. The first one is our student chapters. We are now at around 17 different colleges and universities. We’re equipping young people with the tools, resources, information, and skills to become not only civically engaged today but also to become civic leaders for the rest of their lives.
The second program is the National Artists of Texas Fellowship, where we do a deep dive into leadership skills for young artists and help them understand the important role that art has always had in movements throughout history.
So how can readers either get involved with Move Texas themselves or support your work?
Visit our website, movetexas.org. We have volunteer opportunities throughout the different student chapters. If you’re a young person reading this, please get plugged in. If you’re interested in a student chapter, email us at info@move texas.org. Readers can also donate. Donors enable us to do the critical work in our state to build a democracy that reflects us.
I interviewed you for “Find Your Fire” in early 2020. How have you grown and changed since then?
This work has become increasingly hard for everybody involved —dealing with an ongoing pandemic, transitioning so much of our programs to a virtual space, and then back into in-person work. There’s not a guide that we have as leaders on how to navigate these challenging times. We’ve also been navigating a political divide like never before, especially in a state like Texas, where we have extremist lawmakers who have tampered with our freedom to vote, our freedom to have or not have children, our freedom to learn in our classrooms, our freedom to live on and leave behind a livable planet.
All of these different challenges, coupled with the political and civil unrest that we’re seeing on the ground, toughens you up. It also recenters and re-emphasizes the importance of the mission. For me as a leader, my purpose is knowing that no matter where I am, no matter what organization I work with, I am building that power for young people to have a democracy that truly reflects our needs, our voices, our lived experiences, and our future.
Since the last time we spoke, the country has been moving backward when it comes to equality for LGBTQIA+ people. What can readers of this article do to start reversing that trend?
Pay attention to the issues. Even if they don’t directly impact you, they will directly impact somebody you know and the community that you’re in. Getting involved is the first part of that process. We are living in a time when volunteering with an organization that’s doing this work, or supporting somebody on the ground that’s doing this work, is now really an act of civil disobedience. That is just the political reality and the political moment that we’re all living in.
Could you talk about a time when you realized you needed a #Me-Set?
I love the concept of a #Me-Set because it places responsibility on us as leaders to care for our mental and physical health. Having the will to do this work requires a lot of discipline. I can’t name one single #Me-Set moment, because, for me, it’s something that you’ve got to do every day as a leader. It’s the small things, like drinking enough water or taking a lunch break, all the way to understanding that for us to be able to carry this work forward, there needs to be sustainability. I’m in a role where I’m constantly required to make decisions, so there’s always an opportunity to ensure that those decisions are made in a people-centered way and in alignment not only with my own values, but also the values of our organization and the values that young people have. It is my duty to represent those values in any space that I’m in.
More Fuel for #Firestarters
- Check out the #Me-Set Minute videos on my YouTube channel for regular doses of inspiration.
- Over on LinkedIn, I’m sharing some of my experiences working at Amazon. I’m so grateful for all these experiences!
Copyright (c) 2023 Movement Maker. All rights reserved.
Want personal notes from me to you? Sign up for my newsletter, Friday Fuel a newsletter for #Firestarters who are building movements for social good and within themselves. Join the #MovementMakerTribe and sign up for this monthly inspirational letter today. And you can follow Terri on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn.