Taking Action to Fight Systemic Racism and Register Hard-to-Reach Voters

Congratulations to Caprecia Miller whose academic and advocacy work culminated in being awarded the CRISP Outstanding Student of the Year Award in March 2021.

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Image of Caprecia Miller
Miller’s academic and advocacy work culminated in being awarded the CRISP Outstanding Student of the Year Award in March 2021

 

Master of Social Work Student Recognized for Voter Outreach

After the wrongful deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor shook the nation, Caprecia Miller, a Master’s of Social Work student at the College of Health and Human Services, wanted to take action to address issues of systemic racism and police brutality. Her goal was to increase voter accessibility.  

“I believe social workers have a responsibility to raise awareness about the importance of voting and voter registration with their clients, regardless of political affiliation,” Miller said. The ability to have one’s voice heard by voting is actually a social determinant of health (Healthy People 2020) and a constitutional right that some choose not to exercise for a wide variety of reasons. She began to research voting organizations and soon signed up to be a Voting Squad Captain for When We All Vote, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization with a mission to increase voter participation in every election. 

Feeling distraught after watching the news about George Floyd’s death just a month later, Miller took yet another step toward her goal and set up a voter registration booth near the protests in Washington, D.C. “This is what motivated me and inspired me to get people registered to vote,” Miller said. “I wanted to go where large amounts of people were. This is when I started showing up at Black Lives Matter Plaza and used the protests as an opportunity to register voters.” 

Through her work, Miller became a familiar face to many at the protests, both to locals and those who have traveled from different parts of the country to show support. She will always remember the opportunity to speak with individuals facing housing concerns and register them to vote. “I quickly became a regular at Black Lives Matter Plaza, and several people experiencing homelessness desired to help me set up my table each Saturday,” Miller recalls. 

The experience of speaking with individuals at the protests demonstrated to Miller how many are interested in expressing their concerns when given the opportunity to do so, which inspired her to increase her outreach initiatives. “I learned that people really want someone to take the time to listen to them,” Miller said. “A lot of times we are quick to ask, ‘Are you registered to vote?’ That is not enough when you are trying to register the hard-to-reach voters.” 

Her work in registering hard-to-reach voters did not go unnoticed. When We All Vote recognized Miller as being in the top 3 Voting Squad Captains in the nation, resulting in a surprise phone call from two prominent members of the organization. Miller received a call from Meghan Markle, who is an ambassador for When We All Vote, and Gloria Steinem, an icon of the women’s movement. “I tried to remain professional and calm but then showed my excitement – I lost it!” said Miller. “We chatted for a while and spoke about the importance of the upcoming election. It was a great call, indeed, and we all shared the same concerns.” 

In addition to the phone call, Miller received a personal letter from Former First Lady Michelle Obama, a co-founder of When We All Vote. She was also featured in stories by Vox and NPR

At Mason, Miller was able to combine her passion for voter outreach with her coursework in the Master of Social Work program. “I learned a great deal in SOCW:676 Voting, Empowerment & Social Justice with Professor Rome … and SOCW: 659 (Organizing and Advocating for Change), as well.” Miller had the opportunity to participate in several events that allowed her to gain resources for voting outreach, as well as the chance to speak on the importance of passing H.R. 1 - For The Peoples Act to Congressional staffers. “I was able to make connections and network at the macro-level through my attendance at the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work & Policy (CRISP) Congressional Roundtable, Social Work Day on the Hill, and Student Advocacy Day.” 

Miller’s academic and advocacy work culminated in being awarded the CRISP Outstanding Student of the Year Award in March 2021. When asked about her future, Miller stated that she plans to graduate with her Master’s in Social Work in May 2021 and work to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. “As a U.S. Army Veteran, I desire to continue giving back and working with Veterans and families and hope to become a part of the Department of Veterans Affairs Team,” Miller said. “I plan to remain engaged in my community and will continue to volunteer when opportunities present themselves. I most definitely will be actively involved with civic engagement leading up to the mid-term elections.”