When Mia Elliott turned 18, registering to vote didn’t occur to her. "It was 2013, not a big election year, so I didn’t even think about it," she said.

Through her involvement with the CSUMB chapter of the NAACP, she came to realize how important it is for college students to vote. She’s now the chapter president, and sharing that insight with her fellow students is one of her top priorities.

"I want to educate the uneducated. We need to learn and engage," she said.

Elliott hopes to form a broader coalition of diverse student groups to help with a campus voter registration campaign. She plans to bring them together around shared goals, so that "people can realize social and cultural issues that go on in other communities, and what we can do about it to make an equal world for everyone."

Another priority for Elliott is to diversify the membership of the NAACP chapter on campus. "I want people to know this group is for people of all colors and our allies," she said. "Men and women. All kinds of different people working together to fight for equality. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join the NAACP."

From there, she wants to empower students to have a stronger voice on campus. "Change is a good thing, though sometimes people forget that. But if we aren’t changing and evolving, what’s going on?"

Heading these initiatives is a big commitment, but the sophomore from Sacramento feels this work is what she’s meant to do. "When I realized how important social justice was to me, it was either go big or go home."

Elliott’s family has long supported and encouraged her. "I was always told, ‘Mia, you’re a leader.’ That shaped my life and the decisions I make. How I focus," she said. She doesn’t feel like those expectations are a pressure, but rather something that keeps her motivated and striving. She’s a first-generation college student, and her success does mean a lot to her family. "Every day, my mom calls me and tells me she’s proud of me."

At first, leaving her mother and grandmother to come to CSUMB was a challenge. "I wasn’t open to change," she said with a laugh. "I didn’t realize how much I relied on my family. I felt attached to my old friends and family." She even considered transferring to Sacramento State to be closer to home.

"But then something happened. I opened up, started to get more involved and that changed my school experience."

Part of that evolution may have resulted from an internship at the Otter Cross Cultural Center and her growing involvement with the NAACP and Black Students United student groups. She credits OC3 coordinator rita zhang and Black Students United adviser Asya Guillory with helping her make the transition. "They both make me think. I’m grateful to have such great people come into my life in a short amount of time."

"Now I feel like CSUMB is my second home. Deciding to come to CSUMB was the best decision I have made for myself. And I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else," she said. "In my short time here I have learned so much about myself and who I want to be. And I honestly feel I wouldn’t have learned these things if I went somewhere else."

After graduation, Elliott wants to earn a teaching credential, go to graduate school at UC Berkeley and join the Peace Corps. Eventually, she hopes to do social work with children.

"My biggest life goal is to make an impact on this world," she said. "And do something life-changing for other people."