IGNITE is pleased to announce our first-ever Newark Fellow, Aamore Richards. We chatted with Aamore about her background, Fellowship goals, political leadership experience and much more.
IGNITE: Aamore, welcome to the IGNITE Fellowship! Would you please share a bit about what inspired you to apply for the Fellowship?
AR: One of the main inspirations that guided my interest in serving as a Fellow was my experience as chapter president of IGNITE at TCNJ. At the time, there had been no other chapters in New Jersey, and my team and I were always supported and encouraged by the New York Fellow. I think that sort of relationship between a Fellow and a chapter is vital and seeing this new wave of more New Jersey chapters forming is very exciting. I also see a great opportunity to utilize IGNITE programming to boost civic engagement amongst non-college students through informative programs. In this way, I see great value in supporting IGNITE's mission to strengthen political empowerment. Lastly, my passion for public policy and desire to one day become a legislator has also led me to want to be a part of the IGNITE Fellowship cohort.
IGNITE: That's so exciting to hear more about your political career aspirations. Given your career goals, can you take us through what your political leadership experience has looked like so far?
AR: During my AmeriCorps term, I explored my passions and interests as part of a piloting student intern group of the Know Your Issue Project(KYI). I chose to conduct my research under the issue area of Youth Education, exploring the benefits of Recreational Opportunity for Urban Youth. I also make videos and utilized my YouTube platform to launch an Inform the Vote campaign. What inspired me to take on such an initiative was realizing that many everyday working-class people feel they do not have time to conduct extensive research on political candidates. I have also recently volunteered with for the Murphy campaign supporting re-election efforts on behalf of Governor Murphy and Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver. Virtual circumstances have called for unique and innovative approaches towards political leadership, but I am most grateful to still have the opportunity to use my voice and share my knowledge.
IGNITE: You seem to be quite passionate about the area of youth education in the area. Building off of that, is there something you'd like to change about the education system in your community?
AR: Coming from a West Indian household, I highly value education, particularly youth education. As a child, certain circumstances caused me to bounce in between suburban and urban education systems. I moved from West Orange, New Jersey to Newark, New Jersey in the middle of fourth grade and realised how different the two educational spaces were within my first week. I couldn't understand how the largest and most populated city in New Jersey, yielding much talent, could fail to properly fund the art programs within its education system. The lack of investment in youth education directly reflected a lack of interest in investing in the future. This experience is at the foundation of my interests in youth education, education policy, and may aspire to become a legislator.
IGNITE: Being an IGNITE Fellow means showing other young women that politics is a way to make a difference. Why do you believe more women should get involved in politics and civics?
AR: The more women interested in and active roles in public policy, the more women will feel supported and confident enough to run for office and have their voices heard, thus representing others. Civic engagement also provides space for others to accumulate the knowledge necessary to inform and or advocate for others. As a civically engaged citizen, I feel it is a duty to use your knowledge and access to advocate for issues that affect community members who may not be aware and encourage them to participate as well. Civic engagement is important because the civically engaged advocate for the voices of the unheard and serve as inspiration for those who will soon speak.
IGNITE: The Fellowship is new to the Newark area. With that said, what is your plan to mobilize young women and introduce them to IGNITE?
AR: I think one of the main ways to mobilize a community and get them excited about IGNITE is through fun and innovative programming. Public policy is broad and what falls under public policy is unlimited. There are human rights issues, economic issues, environmental issues, educational policy, food security, and many other issues that garner individual interest, all falling under the scope of public policy. The best way to mobilize the community and get them excited about IGNITE is to showcase that IGNITE has not forgotten about providing space to address those issues which the community holds dear.
IGNITE: IGNITE Fellows are community leaders. What does leadership mean to you and how do you feel it has shown up in your political experiences?
AR: Leadership to me comes in two parts. The first is the mastery of skill which enables you to lead others. The second part, perhaps the most important, is the mastery of skill which enables you to lead others towards being able to lead others. In a general sense, I demonstrate the first half of my definition of leadership by taking the initiative, planning, organizing, and effective problem-solving. I demonstrate the second half of my definition of leadership by prioritizing sustainability. I have a mindset in which I feel my work is only valuable when there is room for others to replicate in expansion. In this way, my idea of leadership heavily involves the ability to pave the way for new and better leaders.
IGNITE: Thank you for your time, Aamore. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
AR: I just want to thank IGNITE for this opportunity and I look forward to serving the Newark community and working closely with community members and leaders!
More about Aamore
Aamore Richards is IGNITE's Newark Fellow. She is majoring in Political Science on a pre-law track at The College of New Jersey. Aamore serves as the Vice President of Student Services, collaborating with school administration to ensure the student body's needs - like housing, dining, health and wellness and support services - are met. Personal experiences with educational inequities have led Aamore to develop a passion for policy and legislative advocacy. She aspires to become a legislator to use policy to advocate for equal and affordable access to education. For Newark inquiries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.