I don’t vote. After living in, working in and contributing to this country, including paying taxes, for 15 years, I still do not have the right to vote. Voting, as it turns out, is not just the responsibility of American citizens, it is also their privilege. Together with other millions of immigrants, most of whom just like me have contributed to this country for many years, I do not have that privilege to choose the people who represent me.

That is not to say I don’t have a voice. I do not have the power of my vote; yet I have power in other ways. I have the power to educate myself about politics, speak up at town hall meetings, help educate others, donate my money to the candidates who I feel deserve it and call and send letters to my city’s representatives. I can also volunteer with political campaigns by calling voters or canvassing. Additionally, I can ensure other people who are eligible register to vote. Yes, there are so many ways to contribute, and yet, the most consequential of all is the actual act of voting.

One day I will have the honor to once and for all become an American citizen. Until that day comes, I will continue to make my voice heard in any way I can.

If you are lucky enough to be able to vote, do so. Vote for yourself and do it for those who can’t because of immigration status, age or any other personal situation outside their control. Do it because it is the right thing to do and because you have the power to do so. Do it because it is a privilege. Do it because it is such a simple and beautiful thing to do for this state and nation we call home.

Written by Isabel Mendoza, Alliance Center Programs Manager