Leading Toward Equity

Young Women Own Their Political Power: 2022-2023 Annual Report

IGNITE participants and alums include cis and trans women, as well as non-binary youth. When referring to “young women” in this report, we include those who identify as women and all gender expansive youth who comprise our community.

A Letter from our CEO

Sara Guillermo Headshot
There’s a myth that Gen Z is apathetic about politics. But this is far from true––at IGNITE we know young women are showing up to lead. Gen Z women are rising across the nation, to make their voices heard, as they set out on their unique journey toward political engagement and leadership. The tens of thousands of young people who have participated in IGNITE programs are models of political and civic impact. Research shows they engage in political actions 28% more than their peers. In 2022’s midterm elections, 96% of our participants voted. And, 16% plan to run for office.

We approach this work through a deep-set of organizational values that promote equity, a forward-thinking mindset, and a capacity to adapt to change. I am grateful for and proud of the IGNITE team that demonstrates these values every day. They model what leadership must look like in this country. Their commitment to our mission fuels our continued impact.

Our country needs new political leaders who represent the full diversity of our populace and who have the perspectives, passion, and perseverance to solve our most urgent problems in service of the public good. Gen Z women hold vast untapped potential. They simply need our investment in their future. This generation is far from apathetic; they are standing strong, shaping the shared future of our country in their own meaningful ways. IGNITE will stand by them every step of the way. And I know that you will, too.

Sara Guillermo


Transforming the Future of Politics


IGNITE is the largest, most diverse political leadership organization in America mobilizing young women with sustained community-based training and support to unleash their political power.

Since 2010, IGNITE has provided community centric trainings, bootcamps and conferences across 36 states, working with middle schools, high schools, and colleges to provide participants with the tools, networks, and mentorship they need to become candidates, campaign staffers, commissioners, community organizers, and policy makers. 

IGNITE Leaders

Our participants are young cis and trans women and girls, as well as gender expansive people who are determined to be part of the solution towards gender equity in our political system.

IGNITE participant identities:
pie chart showing race identity breakdown.
pie chart showing LGBTQ identity breakdown.
IGNITE participants take political leadership and civic engagement to the next level. IGNITE Gen Zers vote 15% higher and engage in political actions 25-40% more than their peers. They are modeling what political and civic engagement looks like for their peers. 

IGNITE 2022-2023 Impact At A Glance

Next Gen Leaders

IGNITE alumni ran for office; ten won their seats.
of IGNITE participants voted in the midterm elections.
The IGNITE the Vote campaign reached 800,000+ people.
IGNITE trained 6,000 new young leaders across 30+ states.
young women participated in IGNITE advocacy trainings to support key national and statewide policies; 60% visited their state capitols with IGNITE.
IGNITE participants are 28% more likely to engage in political actions than their peers.
IGNITE paired 45% of Activate Your Advocacy program participants with an internship or job in a state legislature.

Strengthening Communities through Public Service

Young Women Run, Win, Lead 

IGNITE is on a mission to build ambition, train, and stand by young women who are ready to become our next generation of political leaders. Our flagship Run Now program, along with our conferences and other trainings, make running and holding political seats accessible for those seeking to serve in public office. Others who are eager to participate on the campaign trail by supporting candidates rather than running themselves, benefited from IGNITE trainings on becoming a campaign staffer.

Eighteen members of our IGNITE community ran for office in the last year, including Munira Abdullahi, the youngest Somali American to serve in the Ohio State House; Mary Black, the youngest City Council Member to serve in Raleigh, NC; and Kristen Gonzalez who won a state senate seat in the newly created New York District 59:
Munira Abdullahi
OH - State Rep District 9
Mary Black 
NC - Raleigh City Council
Aurin Chowdhury
MN - Minneapolis City Council Ward 12
Rianna Czech
PA - State Senate
District 50
Karla Garcia
TX - Dallas Independent School District
Kristen Gonzalez
NY - State Senate
District 59
Christine Hernandez
CA - Huntington Beach Union High School
Chiquita Jackson
MD - House of Delegates
District 22
Allison K. James-Frison
NJ - Newark Board of Education
Samantha Perlman
MA - Marlborough Mayor
Nikki Perez 
CA - Burbank City Council 
Caitlin Quinn 
CA - Petaluma Board of Education
Nayma Silver-Matos 
NY - State Assembly
District 72
Amy Vele
Peekskill Board of Education
Jessica Weaver
CT - Newington School Board
Leah Wolfthal
TX - Houston City Council
Crystal Williams
NJ - Newark Board of Education
Jocelyn Yow 
CA - Eastvale City Council 

Political Candidate Spotlight: Aurin Chowdhury

“Organized People Beat Organized Money, Every Time.”

Aurin Chowdhury won her 2023 race for Minneapolis City Council in Ward 12. As a first-generation Bengali-and-Muslim-American, Aurin’s background, coupled with her years of experience organizing in the city of Minneapolis on climate action, workers’ rights, and housing justice persuaded the majority of the electorate to vote for her. Aurin focused her campaign’s efforts on ensuring people across the gender spectrum participated in the political process, and on turning out an incredible vote. She secured 6,500 first-choice votes in a ranked choice voting election—more than the other two candidates, combined. “The things we do now don’t always bring about immediate change, but grow into a different experience for people in our community 20 years down the line,” she said. “IGNITE set me up to run, to immediately improve conditions for working families, and also to set up future generations for success so that we’re not continuously cycling through the same systems of oppression.” Aurin’s campaign had “the best field program in the state of Minnesota this year,” she said. “We did the most attempts on doors and phones. We drove people to the polls. We were outraised by our competition, but we found that organized people beat organized money every time.” Politics is about helping people, Aurin said. That should be the goal of a political campaign. “You don’t have to be perfect,” she said. “You also need to have a community around you to help and give you advice. They need to protect you, because running for office is hard. As our political landscape feels more divided, communities like IGNITE become more important for young women like me.”

Campaign Staffer Spotlight: Shania Bennett

“Candidates Can Run as Their Authentic Selves, and Win.”

Shania Bennett became the youngest elected committee person in Philadelphia's history. The first time she voted at 18, she was also on the ballot. Shania participated in IGNITE’s Run Now training which introduced her not only to the idea of running for office but also taught her what she needed to know to work on campaigns, including door-knocking, field plans, and ethical finance. In 2023, Shania worked as a field staffer for Cherelle Parker’s mayoral campaign. Ms. Parker is now Philadelphia’s 100th mayor and the first woman to lead the city. Before the primary election, she was polling behind. “I learned a ton from working on the campaign of a successful underdog candidate,” Shania said. “Political candidates can run as their authentic selves and win. Cherelle had a great story about growing up on government assistance. Every time I heard her tell that story on the campaign trail I saw people light up and identify with her. It’s not something that many candidates would have had the confidence to put out there in the public eye but IGNITE and Cherelle showed me a different way to run as a woman. Mayor Parker’s boldness to share her journey from humble beginnings showed voters her authenticity. It ultimately displayed her ability to turn pain into power.” Now, Shania continues to work with the Mayor and will go to law school. She has her own plans to run for office again as a judge. “I have always been passionate about serving my community. As a teen, I lost too many of my loved ones to gun violence. My brother was shot and killed in 2021. I am committed to making Philadelphia safe for everyone.”

Community Board Member Spotlight: Nashra Mohammed

“It’s Important for Boards to Allow Younger Members In.”

Nashra Mohammed serves as the youngest board member on the Environmental Commission in Lincolnwood, Illinois. She grew up in Chicago’s public school system and has brought a fresh perspective to decision-making on issues such as contracting, community clean-ups, solar power, and the value of social media communication to engage the public. Since serving on the board, Nashra has developed a concept suggested by a local high school student to use composting to build a community garden. “It’s so important for boards to allow younger members in, especially people that are interested in making a change,” she said. “I’m happy to have a seat at the table and voice my opinion.” Nashra feels her IGNITE experience gives her the energy and willpower she needs to continue building a career in public service and make clear decisions. “IGNITE helped me refocus my ambition after I ran for school board twice, and lost my second race by just 36 votes,” she said. Despite those early losses, Nashra believes that her first experience of running for office at just 18, with IGNITE’s support, set her up to be more successful as a leader now. “All political experiences are priceless,” she said. “And I will totally run again.” Meanwhile she is bolstering her leadership on the environmental board. “Everything we do as IGNITE alumni, we do with our full power,” she said. Nashra’s advice to anyone thinking about running for office is: “If you’re feeling fear about it, just do it anyway. Because America needs more diverse voices stepping into political leadership. That’s what I’ve learned. If running for office scares you, then you should for-sure be doing it!”

From IGNITE Fellow To The White House: Staffer Anna Del Castillo

“We Need More Equitable Representation in This Country, And We Need it Now.”

Anna Del Castillo served as IGNITE’s Boston fellow in 2020. She studied Racial Justice and Healing at Harvard Divinity School and is now working on DEI initiatives at the White House. She first attended the National Young Women Run conference in D.C., and felt inspired by seeing other women own their political power. She initially wanted to join a collective of women running for office or who were interested in leadership. For Anna, becoming a Fellow was about amplifying the voices of historically and intentionally excluded people in politics. “People who have traditionally been left out of the political process, largely women of color and low-income folks should be given the tools and resources they need to successfully run for office. We need more equitable representation in this country, and we need it now,” Anna says. As the Boston Fellow, she hosted several events around Boston that sparked a similar interest in other young women, helping them realize their own potential. “Being a Fellow feels like being a connector. There’s this really important role of connecting other people with important resources, with other young women and with mentors who can provide guidance.” And from there, Anna stepped into her role as a community organizer, facilitator and now Deputy Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) at the White House. IGNITE has prepared her to lead with authenticity, recognize the power of collective organizing, and center equity in all that she does.

Activating Young Voters

Political Power at the Ballot Box

IGNITE’s core curriculum includes voter education, teaching young people why voting matters and how to navigate elections. In each election cycle IGNITE provides the tools and training for young women to host voter registration drives and ballot education parties for their peers. These efforts prioritize making voting a lifelong habit and engaging more young people in the political process. Long-term research suggests that voting in two consecutive elections dramatically increases the likelihood that a person becomes a lifetime voter.

Our 2022 IGNITE the Vote national campaign reached 800,000+ young people, helped them understand and fight voter suppression, and taught them how to secure a ballot and cast an informed vote. We mobilized young voters through digital voting tools and by leveraging IGNITE ambassadors and social media influencers. We worked with well-respected brands including Levi Strauss & Co., New Belgium Brewing Company, Glossier, FlexPort, AARP NY, and Sprinkles Cupcakes to host youth-led voter registration drives and generate voter awareness in young people and first-time voters. We collaborated with organizations including New Georgia Project and Fair Fight o register and mobilize Black, brown, young, and other historically marginalized voters. As a part of our college work, we partnered with voter registration and campus programming across the country.

In San Francisco, California, IGNITE partnered with the Department on the Status of Women to enter high schools across the city, train IGNITE the Vote Leaders, and pre-register students as young as 16 years old. Our digital education campaign reached 50,000+ young people across the San Francisco region.

The results are striking: IGNITE participants voted at an astounding 96%.

Advocating for our Shared Future

Better Policy through Advocacy 

In 2022-2023, 600+ participants advocated for policy change on 20 bills with the help of IGNITE. Issues included voting rights, campaign finance reform, codifying reproductive rights into law, rape kit accessibility, sexual violence prevention, harassment on public transit, and menstrual equity.  They spent hundreds of hours calling, writing, using social media, and meeting with legislators to make their voices heard.  

Our IGNITE the Capitol program makes legislative advocacy accessible and exciting for middle school, high school and college-aged women. Through organized trips to their state capitols, participants learned about the legislative process and how to influence policy decisions. 

Over 350 young women joined IGNITE the Capitol events in California, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Legislators and their staff at the state and federal level welcomed IGNITE young women, listened to their perspectives, and engaged with them in policy debates and discussions.

In Nevada, we advocated for SB 131 to codify women’s reproductive healthcare rights into state law. The bill passed in the spring of 2023. 

In California, we advocated for passage of a bill on rape kit accessibility on college campuses that was signed into law in the fall of 2023. We also supported AB 367, the Menstrual Equality for All Act of 2021, which passed after years of advocacy efforts and work with state legislators. 

In Texas, we supported HB70 to eliminate the tampon tax and increase access to period products, which passed. We also supported SB124, to provide Medicaid eligibility during and following pregnancy.
Partners at the state level included Alliance for Girls, Georgia STOMP, California Association of Student Councils, ACLU California, and Texas Menstrual Equity Coalition.

IGNITE worked on 20 Federal Bills this year including:

The Campus Accountability and Safety Act which would flip the incentives to protect students and professionalize the response to and reporting of sexual assault.

The For the People Act (also known as H.R. 1/S. 1), a bill to expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, limit partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders.

The Youth Voting Rights Act,
the most comprehensive measure introduced to uphold the promise of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 and outlaws age discrimination in access to the ballot.

Partners at the federal level included PERIOD, the National Diaper Bank Network, and YouthInGov coalition, among a number of other coalitions and organizations.

Championing Change on Campuses 

IGNITE College Chapters in Action

Student-led IGNITE Chapters normalize and build political and civic participation on campuses across the country. Chapters introduce young women to politics by hosting voter registration drives, policy workshops, and debates. They use IGNITE curriculum to deliver political leadership training and orchestrate meetings with elected women and candidates to demystify what it means to step into public service.

College Chapter Spotlight: UCLA Students Demand Better Access to Care

“The Schools We’re Talking About Are Powerhouses.”
Most colleges in America do not offer rape kits on campus, and some school officials and healthcare experts have resisted demands to do so. Against that backdrop, more than 75 members of IGNITE’s college chapter at UCLA went on a successful mission to increase students’ access to Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) exams, also known as rape test kits, across the University of California campuses. They advocated for and passed a bill, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October 2023, that requires most California universities and colleges to provide transportation for students to and from a sexual assault treatment center. The Los Angeles Times ran an in-depth story on this victory.

Members of the IGNITE UCLA chapter hope their success will support more survivors to seek exams and report their assaults. The students worked with Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa), an obstetrician and gynecologist, to write Assembly Bill 1138, which requires schools to provide free and anonymous transportation to a treatment center that provides SAFE exams, or to contract with local organizations to provide the transportation. The bill is crucial to adequately shift the onus of post-assault care to universities and away from struggling students.

College Chapter Spotlight: University of Alabama Students Win Service Awards

Note: The above photos are from the College Chapter’s Instagram
“We Wanted to Do Our Part.”
The University of Alabama bestowed two Service Awards to IGNITE’s Alabama chapter, led by Shanaya Daughtrey and her colleagues on the chapter executive board. The award recognized the chapter's commitment to deepening civic engagement on campus. Chapter members ran a “Barriers to Women’s Health Care” event, and a “Run, Don’t Walk to the Polls” event. Shanaya and the executive board grew the chapter from a relatively small club on campus to one held in high esteem by their fellow students. “From the rollback on reproductive health care and access to the attack on voting rights, our chapter as a whole felt deeply obligated to do our part to inform our campus and uplift the historically marginalized and minority communities through outreach, targeted forums, and effective partnerships,” Shanaya said. “I’m proud to have advanced IGNITE’s national mission in Alabama.”

Centering Gen Z Voices

Speak Up, Speak Out!

IGNITE amplifies young voices around the issues that most impact their lives and communities.

No Masters Class by IGNITE

IGNITE partnered with Publicis Groupe’s New York City-based creative collective, Le Truc, to produce and launch “No Masters Class by IGNITE”. The video series demystifies political activism for Gen Z and features a step-by-step guide so they can organize their peers around today’s top issues. The campaign tapped into a network of 70,000+ individuals on social media who follow well-known activists and influencers, and included coverage in media outlets such as AdForum and MediaVillage.

Will Larkins on Advocacy

Will Larkins, the high school senior who organized Florida’s biggest school walkout in a single afternoon against the Don’t Say Gay bill, teaches a class on how to advocate.

Sis on Organizing

Actress and activist Sis stands for visibility and representation in the fight for equality. In addition to breaking Broadway barriers, Sis is the founder of The Next Generation Project, a nonprofit that distributes resources to Black and brown trans people. She teaches a class on grassroots organizing.

Emily Flores on Using Your Voice

Emily Flores, the Mexican-American founder of Cripple Media, a teen journalist and student at the University of Texas, founded the magazine that would become Cripple Media, a website by and for Gen Z’ers with disabilities. She teaches a class on how to amplify your ideas.

Thought Leadership

IGNITE CEO Sara Guillermo spoke up for Gen Z in the New York Times, on NPR, and as a regular columnist for The Hill on issues including mental health and women in politics, the youth wave in politics, Gen Z’s motivations to vote, and why efforts to suppress the Gen Z vote are like poking a bear.  

By elevating narratives normalizing young women’s political ambition and success, IGNITE provides a platform to help build their political and cultural influence and visibility. IGNITE voices in the media this year include:

Why the Texas Legislature Is Foolish To Suppress the Gen-Z Vote

Democracy Docket
“I’m a Gen-Z college student in Dallas and a recent immigrant from Venezuela. I registered thousands of students to vote last year, and I’ve got a message for the Texas Legislature: Don’t try to ban college students from voting on college campuses. If you do, get ready for us to work even harder to vote.”

– Isabella Fuentes, North Texas Fellow, June 2023
Read Article

Florida Legislature’s plan to suppress Gen Z votes will backfire

South Florida Sun Sentinel
“The Florida Legislature is saying young people don’t matter, and our voices don’t count... By trying to suppress our votes, the Florida Legislature will inspire us to get more involved. This bill is bad for Gen Z voters and bad for Florida, but any plan to curtail Gen Z’s political participation will backfire.”

–Eliahna MacFarlane, South Florida Fellow
Read Article

Why Gen Z Women Are Thrilled By Progressive Wisconsin Judge’s Big Win

DC Journal
“Voters across [Wisconsin]‚ bolstered by a high turnout among Gen Z, delivered a stunning rebuke to those seeking to ban abortion. It’s an election outcome that bodes well for women across America and for our chances of preserving abortion access in the 2024 presidential election.”

–Emily Kern, Wisconsin Fellow
Read Article

Why We Shouldn’t Ban TikTok

Women’s Media Center
“TikTok has not only deepened my interest in democracy but also shaped my career in politics. So the idea that we should ban such a platform — as many countries, including the United States, have proposed doing — seems shortsighted at best.”

–Alexandra Leal, California Fellow
Read Article

Rally behind candidates that are going to be smarter on crime and our tax dollars

The Oklahoman
“My mission going into the upcoming election is to help seat candidates that see the state of Oklahoma’s incarceration landscape for what it is: a crisis… I want to elect people with practical solutions and the relational equity to do something about it.”

–Jasmine Thomas, Oklahoma City Fellow
Read Article

To Diversify Kansas Politics, We Must Invest in Young Women

Topeka Capitol Journal
“If we’re going to achieve political leadership that reflects the United States population, we need to be intentional about removing barriers to running. That’s particularly true when it comes to young women of color…I seek to level that playing field.”

–Christina Haswood, IGNITE Alum and Kansas State Representative
Read Article


pie chart showing race identity breakdown.
pie chart showing LGBTQ identity breakdown.
* In 2021, IGNITE was the recipient of a generous $4M Equality Can't Wait award. We received the entirety of the award in September 2021 and agreed to spend the funds down annually through fiscal year 2023/2024.




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