Praise for Yuma High School and its voter-registration efforts

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner with Navil Babonoyaba and Andrea Hermosillo, two Yuma High School graduates who got 96 percent of their class to register to vote during the last school year. Yuma High was honored during an awards ceremony Friday. (SOS photo/Judd Choate)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner with Navil Babonoyaba and Andrea Hermosillo, two Yuma High School graduates who got 96 percent of their class to register to vote during the last school year. Yuma High was honored during an awards ceremony Friday. (SOS photo/Judd Choate)

Two of Colorado’s top leaders shared their high school experiences when honoring Yuma High School on Friday for its effort in registering its seniors to vote.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner — a 1993 Yuma High grad — addressed students at an afternoon assembly at Yuma High School.

“It’s easy to participate but a lot of folks don’t do that. Instead they complain. They whine,” Williams said. “But you have a couple of students here who took some leadership and they did something different. They got their peers registered to vote.

“I’m just ecstatic to be here at Yuma High School.”

Last school year, students Andrea Hermosilla and Navil Babonoyaba worked with the group Inspire Colorado to register 96 percent of the senior class at YHS.  For that effort, Yuma High School received the inaugural Eliza Pickrell Routt Award for Outstanding Voter Registration Efforts from the Secretary of State’s office. The graduates urged the students to continue their efforts.

Yuma County Clerk Bev Wenger and state elections director Judd Choate attended the awards ceremony Friday for Yuma High School. (SOS photo)
Yuma County Clerk Bev Wenger and state elections director Judd Choate attended the awards ceremony Friday for Yuma High School. (SOS photo)

Eaglecrest High School in Centennial on Friday will receive the same award, which is named for the first woman to register to vote in Colorado and a pioneer in that effort.

“It’s not enough to register. Vote. Return that ballot,” Williams said.

Williams repeated for the students a story he often tells when talking to groups. His high school in Virginia didn’t have a graduating class in 1959 because the town leaders closed the school rather follow orders to integrate it. Twenty years later, when Williams attended Warren County High School, the leadership hadn’t improved much.

“I said, ‘This is ridiculous.’ My friends said the same. And so about 70 of us got out and we handed literature out at polling places and we changed who was in control of the county for the first time in over 100 years. And most of us couldn’t even vote yet,” he said.

“So you can make a difference.”

Williams said the courthouse was closed for a holiday when he went to register to vote after he turned 18. He said in Colorado it’s easy to register to vote or update a registration. Coloradans can text “CO” to “2Vote” on their smartphones and be sent a link. Or they can go to www.govotecolorado.com. Teen-agers can also pre-register to vote.

Yuma High School students and some parents listen and record an awards ceremony held at the school Friday afternoon, honoring YHS for its voter registration efforts. (SOS photo)
Yuma High School students and some parents listen and record an awards ceremony held at the school Friday afternoon, honoring YHS for its voter registration efforts. (SOS photo)

Gardner said when he was in high school, he and other students on the Eastern Plains were concerned about being shortchanged when it came to education funding. They had planned a walkout but changed the event to a rally in Yuma High’s gymnasium that was attended by Gov. Roy Romer.

“It’s great to see Yuma High School continue the tradition of involvement,” Gardner said.

In addition, Gardner ticked off a long line of well-known Yuma High alums, including athletes and authors. “I’ve got to brag up Yuma High School,” he said.

Also attending the ceremony was Yuma County’s Clerk Bev Wenger, Sheriff Chad Day, Treasurer Dee Ann Stults and County Commissioners Trent Bushner and Dean Wingfield. . In addition, Luke O’Dell with Congressman Ken Buck’s office presented the school with a framed copy of Buck’s remarks to the congressional record about Yuma High.