A 2018 BYU sociology graduate is seeking election this November into the Utah House of Representatives to represent Provo’s District 63.
Jenna Rakuita, the face behind “Jenna for Provo,” believes that since 71% of Provo residents are between the ages of 18 and 24 years old, their elected representative should be too. The goal of her campaign is for student representation to become a movement and change the face of democracy in Utah.
“The needs of students and young people aren’t represented within our community,” Rakuita said. “The issues that are being focused on by representatives aren’t meeting the needs of students.”
Rakuita will run against incumbent Republican Adam Robertson and Austin Simcox of the United Utah Party. Robertson has represented Provo’s District 63 since January 2018.
Rakuita wants to make local politics more personal for students. She said she wants to hear from students and young people through direct messages on social media about what issues they see in the community and how we can implement solutions. The campaign’s main focus is to implement policies that will improve students’ lives.
Campaign volunteer and BYU political science student Robby Lindsay said the majority of Provo has specific concerns like housing, mental health, transportation and education that need more attention.
“As I’ve learned about the huge housing shortage that exists in Utah for lower-income people, and teacher pay being ranked lowest in the country for 20 or 30 years in a row, I think there are a lot of important issues that we can change and Jenna’s campaign has opened my eyes to that,” said Lindsay.
BYU has played a significant role in Rakuita’s motivation to run in the election. She said the inclusive environment at BYU encourages students to be heard and take action in their local communities. For example, BYU offers voter registration drive, various political clubs on campus and the Ballard Center’s social innovation projects, which provide internships focused on how to create an impact on social issues.
Rakuita’s former sociology professor Jacob Rugh said BYU has many resources for students to get more involved in local politics. Rugh said something he loves about BYU is “the classroom experience, teaching such bright, thoughtful students who really want to answer deeper questions about the meaning behind things: why aren’t things happening, what can I do, searching for solutions.”
Rakuita said the best way to get more involved in local government is to volunteer for a campaign, register to vote and continue to learn about local issues.