Raymond Nevo '20 never thought that he would hold public office. It wasn't until another School of Public Policy alumnus, Hugo E. Cantu '20, suggested Nevo run for Prince George's County Council that he decided to turn his advocacy work into direct political change.
"I want to influence decision makers to really make equitable and just decisions for the communities and the populations that they impact," said Nevo. "COVID-19 has really exacerbated a lot of problems in our community. I'm seeing this everywhere and it brought me to a point where I thought that I don't want to just be an advocate. I also want to be a decision maker."
Three years ago, Nevo made Prince George's County his new home. He's experienced many hardships, including homelessness, but his grandmother's eviction began his path in public policy. Through courses on housing policy at SPP, he learned more about how systemic the problem is. This inspired him to work with the National Housing Trust, where he helps advocate for those most at risk of evictions, and utility shut-offs.
"There were a number of experiences [at SPP] that inspired me to want to be in a position as the decision maker and want to engage with the community and hear different sides and different aspects of the story." Nevo said.
There are some changes in the political system, specifically the County Council, that Nevo's campaign would like to see happen so that everyone is involved in the policy process.
"It has been beyond frustrating to see so many decision-makers make decisions that benefit a few and harm those people most in need," said Nevo. "We have elected politicians who talk about wanting to ensure that young people and new ideas are brought in."
Instead, Nevo explains, those who hold power try to dissuade young people from fully participating in the political process. He expressed that these individuals believe that they are naive and don't understand how everything works. But it is essential to encourage anyone to run for office.
While the campaign is still in its early stages, Nevo expressed that he has learned many lessons about running a campaign, meeting with stakeholders and bringing other people that he trusts into the process. Through his relationships with the SPP community, Nevo brought Cantu and Thomas Jones '18 on as his campaign manager and treasurer.
For Jones, the networking never ends. He explained that without the SPP Alumni Board, he would have never met Raymond to discuss his candidacy and his role in the campaign.
"The board serves a great purpose for serving alumni and as an influence for driving policy changes, advocating for current students, and even helping prospective students make the decision about coming to the School of Public Policy." Jones stated. "If not for that, I wouldn't have ended up on the campaign."
Cantu, a first generation Mexican-American, expressed a similar appreciation for the broader SPP community. Without his experiences with faculty members, alumni, and other students, he states that he would not be where he is today.
"This was just not the world I was supposed to be in, and the School of Public Policy [gave] me a home," said Cantu. "Me and a couple other classmates decided to form the professional fraternity Kappa Omega Alpha (KOA), and that was the first time at a university level that I was with people [with] similar ideas and goals."
Even in these early stages, Nevo believes that everyone who has thought of running for office should give it more consideration. While it is a long and challenging process, he expressed that the journey so far has already taught him a lot.
"I'm not going into this totally fearless. I'm going into this understanding there is a big risk and there is also a big reward for taking that risk," Nevo stated. "Don't let fear stop you from doing anything that you want to do."