“Society kind of says that young people are ignorant, bashful and they just don’t know a lot,” said junior music major Jeremy Moore.
“Those things empower me, encourage me and inspire me that the things that I also have deep down inside of me [are] to know that I can do those things [to help the world.]”
Moore is one of two USM students being recognized for their desire to not only make a change in their lives but also in the lives of others.
Moore and senior biology major Kristen Dupard have been selected for the second year in a row to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University.
The Clinton Global Initiative University, launched in 2007, holds an annual event to engage students on college campuses and develop a new generation of leaders.
“We have students all over doing really great things,” Dupard said. “This year they’re wanting to highlight us based off of the work that we’ve done.”
Students are able to attend plenary sessions, working sessions and other events form strong bonds with their peers as they grow individually. The highlight of the event is not only getting to meet former President Bill Clinton but to share ideas with other students beyond the boundaries of their respective universities.
Dupard and Moore’s influential idea is to promote voting among students and young people in the Hattiesburg area.
In the 2012 elections, only 45 percent of young people in the age group of 18-29 voted in their respective area. Although in Mississippi, young residents placed second in the nation in turn out with 68.1 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. To Dupard, that number is just not high enough.
“We don’t really try to push people to do anything that they don’t want to do,” Dupard said. “By having debate watch parties, voter registration drives, Jeremy and I, we really try to convince them that they matter and that these issues the politicians are talking about, they affect them whether you live in Mississippi or Timbuktu. You really have to think about ‘how is this issue going to affect me 10 years from now.’”
Every week, Dupard and Moore can be found on campus in front of the Fresh Food Company helping students and others sign up to vote. As a result, they have helped more than 300 people get their voices heard.
Dupard has helped people find their voices for more than 10 years.
A New Orleanian, she was one of the many residents affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She said the storm not only shaped how her life would look from that point on but how she would be influenced seeing her world turn upside down.
“I had to start completely over,” Dupard said. “I had people really pouring into me and really telling me that Kristen you can be somebody, you can do something and make a difference. So by me being able to recognize my voice and see my voice heard because other people saw something in me and didn’t allow that pain to consume me but to funnel me in a way that I can make a difference.”
That desire led Dupard and Moore to meet at Southern Miss, where their friendship hit the ground running. Driven to give a voice to the voiceless, they were initially unsure how they would do it. As African-Americans, they wanted their demographic to be better represented in the polls.
“If you’re not registered to vote, then your demographic is poor, not represented on grand juries and because of that then you can’t have a certain opinion when things don’t go your way,” Dupard said. “We want to empower their voices and we want them to exercise their right. So many people have fought and died for us to have this right.”
At the 2015 event in Miami, the weight of that fact became especially evident to Moore. He saw how all the other students did not let their backgrounds shape their future. He met students from across the country, the world and even as close to home as Ole Miss.
Like Dupard, these students had dramatic turns in their lives and are still affected by certain factors in their lives. He saw those lessons and decided to keep those in mind as he interacted on a daily basis.
However, one lecture in particular opened his eyes even wider, a lecture that taught him something he said he would never forget.
“There’s so much truth that deserves to be told in the world, and you can’t just let it pass you
by,” Moore said. “I realized that there was so much that I was oblivious to in [how] I live from day to day.”
After they return from their second trip to Clinton Global Initiative University, Dupard and Moore will continue to make strides for young people getting their voices heard. One of those strides will combine the current generation and the influence of technology.
“Jeremy and I are working on a project to potentially work with the secretary of state, Delbert Hosemann, to take voter registration online,” Dupard said. “[The program] helps us to really make realistic solutions to these problems.”