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State Honoree

Christine Varnado

Mississippi

Christine Varnado, 18, of Hattiesburg High School in Hattiesburg, Mississippi developed an ongoing voter registration drive at her school. Her idea grew from an interview for a school paper with Ellie Dahmer, wife of slain civil rights activist Vernon Dahmer, who had fought for African Americans' right to vote. Christine was so inspired, that she pledged to invite every 18- year-old student in her school to register to vote. Her campaign began with a pitch to her principal for approval to initiate the project on school grounds. Once she received the OK, Christine approached two school clubs to secure $I 00 in funding, which she used to prepare postcards inviting high school seniors to obtain information on voter registration. She prepared flyers that read, "If you don't vote, you don't count," and posted them throughout the school.
She also contacted the local newspaper and school paper to promote the project, a project for which Christine sets aside countless hours every week to address postcards to students nearing their 18th birthdays. "I have learned that one person cannot make another person register to vote, but when young people do register, it's contagious," said Christine. She is now training an interested junior in her school to take over the voter registration campaign when she graduates.