With the 2020 election having come and gone, and with it, the Trump administration, students who started political groups at ASU during Trump's presidency hope to continue making an impact within their community as the political climate shifts.
In January 2020, Michael Simm, now a senior studying political science, started Sunrise ASU, a "hub" of the national Sunrise Movement in Tempe, with a few friends. He said he found it disturbing there wasn't a politically-focused climate club at ASU, so he decided it was time to act.
"I was pushed toward the Sunrise Movement because the Trump administration ditched climate responsiveness and was accelerating the climate crisis," Simm said. "In 2020, I jumped at the opportunity to help the Sunrise Movement get out the vote against Trump."
The Sunrise Movement's website describes it as "a youth movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process." Simm said he is one of many members within Sunrise ASU who became politically active because of the Trump administration's "abuses" regarding climate.
"The urgency of the climate crisis necessitates stronger action on climate issues than our political leaders are currently taking," Simm said. "Politics are where the purse strings are pulled and the Trump administration was actively slowing down climate action."
Simm said he learned a lot from his mentors, including Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) communications manager César Fierros.
Simm said Sunrise ASU, like many other clubs, took a hit during the pandemic, unable to have outreach events and other in-person activities. Despite the obstacles, he said the club has a lot of exciting plans in progress.
Ben Branaman, a freshman studying business data analytics, decided to start New Voters @ ASU alongside Brigid Fitzgerald, a freshman studying political science, a few months before the 2020 election.
"Ben approached me with the offer, and I couldn't refuse in light of the importance of the 2020 election," Fitzgerald said.
Branaman was motivated to start New Voters @ ASU after his hometown of Peoria voted to deny schools in the Peoria Unified School District millions of dollars in funding.
When he realized the deciding margin was just a few hundred votes, Branaman decided to become more politically active in his community.
"I realized that with a better voter turnout from the parents of the school, the futures of thousands of students could’ve been altered," Branaman said.
Both he and Fitzgerald said friends and family helped them become more politically active.
Branaman said his grandmother was very involved with the Equal Rights Amendment movement in the 1970s, and she encouraged him to be civically engaged whenever possible.
One of Fitzgerald's favorite moments from the club was when two Arizona House Representatives came to speak to the club about the importance of voting.
"I think, for the most part, I have surrounded myself with a really open-minded and forward-thinking friend group, and we have encouraged and supported each other over time to learn more about the political world around us as new laws and administrations are created that affect us all differently," Fitzgerald said.
With Trump out of the Oval Office and Biden now serving in his place, these clubs hope to remain active in the community while informing their peers of the issues front and center today.
"As we move past the Trump era, the Sunrise Movement and I look forward to working with my fellow students to push for more action on climate change," Simm said.
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