Even though COVID-19 has impaired her ability to do a lot of the canvassing involved in being a campaign volunteer, senior Rajitha Velakaturi has worked hard through this election to spread information and increase voter turn out. Velakaturi has met with teams to discuss policy and strategy, manage social media accounts, worked on marketing teams, and worked the phone and text banks. Being apart of this has allowed Velakaturi to encounter many new people with different opinions and backgrounds than her.
“Working on a campaign has really helped me expand my viewpoint and be okay with that fact that 99 percent of the time I’m in the room with people way smarter than me and that’s the biggest tool because if you embrace it you can learn from these crazy smart, and amazing people,” Velakaturi said.
To Velakaturi, the most important part of her work is having meaningful conversations with other people. It allows her to see the humanity in others no matter whether their political beliefs align or not. As for the future, Velakaturi hopes to be able to make an impact on the people she interacts with every day through local government.
“I was inspired to start working on campaigns and take action if I wanted to see real change in 2015. I went to a meet-and-greet with local legislators and that was it,” Velakuri said. “It was so enlightening to hear about how local government works and how the national government works. I think democracy is the most important value as Americans.”
One of Velakaturi’s mentors, former Kansas state representative and candidate for Kansas state senator, Joy Koesten first met Velakaturi in 2017 and was automatically impressed by her curiosity and ability to speak up for herself. Koesten believes that Velakaturi will be a strong voice for future generations in government.
“The best part is knowing that we have young people like Rajitha who are willing and able to speak up and work hard to move our community forward. Her passionate dedication to understanding the issues and her willingness to work in collaboration with others gives me great hope for our future,” Koesten said.
Family members such as Velakaturi’s mother, Madhuri Vadlamudi, have seen her confidence grow since she started volunteering and getting active in politics. Know
ing that she is able to make a difference in her community fuels Velakaturi to not only continue to work on campaigns and canvas but to also have open dialogues with family members such as her mom. Seeing how passionate Velakaturi is about her political work encourages her family to support and to take pride in her ventures.
“She has a good heart for people who are in need, poor, and vulnerable. I am proud of her when she stands up for herself even in hard situations,” Vadlamudi said.
Being able to make a positive change in her community motivates Velakaturi to continue to work hard in school, home and online where she does the majority of her campaigning. With her family there to support her and mentors like Koesten, Velakaturi is constantly encouraged to spread her ideas and to absorb what others say and form her opinion on current issues.
“My favorite part of working on a campaign is meeting people and having meaningful conversations about our values and truths,” Velakaturi said. “It’s always nice when your candidate wins but transcending that is the general sense of decency and kindness that you get to see when you talk to new people and share ideas.”