Nathan Phillips - KLC fotos
Madison Roberts helped people register to vote at last Saturday's Cal football game.
to make a difference.
That's how long it took the senior on the California lacrosse team to make sure all of her teammates were registered to vote.
Roberts has been working with the nonprofit organization RISE (Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality) and specifically RISE to Vote – a nonpartisan effort of RISE that encourages student-athletes to register to vote – to spread the word about the importance of voting. Her influence has extended well beyond the lacrosse team.
"I'm very passionate about people our age being active and educated about voting, and caring about the issues that are affecting us," Roberts said. "I thought it would be good to get our student-athletes involved in that, and I wanted to spearhead a voter registration campaign. A lot of times it ends up just being a matter of giving them the website to go to or telling them how to get an absentee ballot. Giving people those resources is the most important step in that."
After discussing her interests and gaining the support of head coach Brooke Eubanks
, Roberts sought more help from representatives in Cal Athletics to get an initiative started. The initial help from Director of Student-Athlete Development Bobby Thompson
opened the door for her to meet with Cal's Senior Woman Administrator Jennifer Simon-O'Neill
, who discussed options with Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton
Simon-O'Neill said Cal had already been speaking with RISE about other endeavors prior to her knowledge of Roberts' cause, so pairing her with the organization was a perfect fit.
"I'm very passionate about our student-athletes being able to find their voice and start student-led initiatives," Simon-O'Neill said. "Being able to see current student-athletes go after their goals and passions, while figuring out how powerful their voice can be on this campus and nationally, is pretty amazing to see."
Last week was a busy one for Roberts. She and RISE put on a presentation for Cal's student-athletes on Thursday, as well as hosting a photo booth activation station at Cal's volleyball and football games. The activation station included a digital photo experience where fans took photos or GIFs expressing the importance of voting that they can share on social media. There was also a station set up to help those who weren't already registered to vote to get in the system.
"I've really enjoyed working with Madson; she has a lot of big ideas," said Adam Wood, RISE's Assistant Vice President of Athlete Engagment and Sports Outreach. "Our goals are so similar, we want to help bring her goals into light moving forward as we think about our next steps. Seeing Madison get in front of her peers and talk to her fellow student-athletes was really fantastic. The commitment of all the student-athletes in the room was amazing."
The seeds of Roberts' passion for American civic duty go back to her hometown.
A native of Arlington, Va., she grew up close to the heart of American politics. As a child, Madison's mother, Gail, was always excited to bring her along when she voted.
Madison voted for the first time during the midterm elections in 2014 in high school, and for her civics class, she worked at the polls as an election officer.
"I stayed at my precinct all day, and it was really fun to be a part of the process," she said. "Working behind the scenes during an actual election, seeing that I had a hand in this, it comes full circle as opposed to just watching on TV."
A career in politics may be in Roberts' future, but she's also an urban studies major and is very interested in city planning.
Regardless of her eventual career choice, Roberts will always be on a mission to join others in spreading the word about the importance of voting.
"I ask that you educate yourself on the issues, use your voice on issues you care about by voting," she said. "I don't care what your opinion is, but I want you to develop an opinion on the issues and feel passionately about it. I just want people to actively listen. Everyone can and should vote."